Gov. Rick Perry was the first of three likely presidential candidates to address Texas Republican delegates who opened their state convention in Fort Worth on Thursday.
A glitzy video took the delegates down memory lane, recounting the highlights of Perry’s three decades in state politics. Then first lady Anita Perry introduced him, hinting there’s more to come.
“I’m happy to say we’ve both got some tread left on our tires,” the first lady told 11,000 pumped-up Republicans.
Perry listed achievements during his three terms as governor, including a strong Texas economy, job creation and low taxes. But he said the greatest legacy of his administration is education reform.
“You can be proud the Texas Class of 2012 achieved the second highest graduation rates in America,” he said. He said the state approval of more than 200 charter schools is also helping at-risk students finish school.
Education reform is a message that might resonate with conservative voters beyond Texas as they choose their next Republican presidential nominee.
So too are a number of other hot-button issues Perry hit, including Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.
Perry told the crowd: “Some states took the bait of Obamacare and they expanded Medicaid. We did not. And we will not subscribe to federal blackmail."
Perry railed against the federal government for bungling veterans’ healthcare and the excessive waits for appointments experienced by many veterans.
He brought delegates to their feet with his rallying cry for states’ rights.
“Nowhere in that Constitution does it say Washington should control our classrooms," he said. "Nowhere in that Constitution does it say the federal government should have primary responsibility over the air we breathe, the water we drink or the land that we farm."
Shortly after Perry spoke, delegates lined up to vote in a GOP presidential straw poll that lists 14 names of potential candidates, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who will also address the delegates.
Bill Schereck from Dallas says it’s a tough choice, but Perry’s speech convinced him.
“I will tell you my dream team would be Rick Perry and Ted Cruz,” he said. He added that he’d put Perry at the top of the ticket “because of his executive experience.”
A husband and wife from Llano like Texas’ feisty junior senator.
“He did exactly what we sent him to Washington to do,” Brent Richards said.
“He knows how to speak and get things across,” Patricia Richards added.
Pat McGinnis of Friendswood is looking outside the Lone Star State. He thinks Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker looks promising.
“He was able to resist a very catfight of a recall for him and he prevailed quite well," Walker said.
On Friday, Cruz and Paul get their chances to impress the delegates. Like Perry, they'll try out a few messages that might play well in Iowa.