In Aspen, Rick Perry says the boss wants him to run | AspenTimes.com

In Aspen, Rick Perry says the boss wants him to run

Lynn Goldsmith/Special to The Aspen TimesRepublican Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Rick Perry of Texas participate in "A Conservation with Republican Governors," moderated by Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson, on Friday.

ASPEN – If Texas Gov. Rick Perry listens to his wife Anita, he will run for president.

Perry said at the Aspen Institute last night that he is weighing a presidential bid carefully and will require “three or four” weeks to reach a decision. But he acknowledged that his wife wants him to run and her opinion will have a big influence on his decision.

“Sixty days ago I will tell you that I had the best job in America, the best job in America being the governor of the state of Texas,” Perry said. “Running for the president of the United States was not on my radar screen.

“Then someone that I truly love, someone that I’ve spent 42-plus years with, sat me down, looked me in the face and said, ‘Listen, our country is in trouble.'”

Anita Perry told him of her concerns about “Obamacare” and the national debt. “She said, ‘You need to get out of your comfort zone. Your country is in trouble and you need to do your duty,'” Perry said. “And I listen to my wife.”

The standing-room-only audience of more than 500 people at the Greenwald Pavilion erupted into applause at the strong suggestion that Perry’s hat is in the ring.

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Perry was the focus of a panel discussion called “A Conservation with Republican Governors” that was led by Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. The GOP governors meet in the Democratic stronghold of Aspen each summer for a Republican Governors Association (RGA) conference; Perry is chairman of the RGA.

Perry had his light moments but was generally more serious than he was last year when he was also one of the GOP governors participating in a talk with Isaacson. Perry was dressed Colorado casual in jeans, an untucked, maroon, button-down shirt and a dark jacket.

When Isaacson pressed Perry on his presidential aspirations, the governor portrayed it as his obligation to give it some thought because he is hearing from so many people that he should run. In one breath, he said he won’t jump to conclusions. In the next breath he said: “I’m basically asking people, do you think there’s room in this presidential election for a full-throated, unapologetic fiscal conservative?”

He also had an interesting slip of the tongue. Perry started one point by saying, “As president” but he caught himself and corrected it to “As governor of Texas …. .” It wasn’t clear if he momentarily projected himself as president of the United States or president of an independent country of Texas.

Perry shared the stage with four other governors pegged as promising leaders of the GOP’s future. They were Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who drew the loudest applause at the introductions.

Walker, McDonnell and Haley each, in turn, criticized politicians in Washington for failing to get the federal budget under control. They said governors of both parties have shown true leadership in making tough decisions to balance their state’s budgets.

Haley seemed to infer she has greater political aspirations. Looking around the stage at her fellow Republicans, she said the country should “put us in Washington – we’d figure it out” while referring to the budget and debt limit debates.

McConnell advocated for a national balanced budget amendment. Walker said the U.S. government needs to make immediate “structural changes” in the way it does business before the debt crisis is too big to dig out of. “We weren’t elected to think of the next election. We were elected to think of the next generation,” he said.

The crowd was overwhelmingly Republican, a rarity in Aspen. They clearly want the federal government to cut spending now and not add taxes. Perry made sure he provided the likely Republican voters and potentially large donors in the crowd with his views on a wide variety of topics – sometimes when asked a question but also by taking the initiative.

On immigration reform, he said the first essential step is to secure the border with Mexico with “boots on the ground” and aviation resources.

On foreign policy, he said America should be a strong leader economically and militarily. He criticized President Obama for a foreign policy that is too hard for allies to understand. “Our friends need to know we’re standing with them,” he said.

When asked if it was wrong to pull troops from Afghanistan, Perry dodged. He said he would listen to his generals rather than his political advisors.

Perry went slightly off topic at one point to highlight his Libertarian views. The Founding Fathers of the country wanted few federal powers, he insisted, and they wanted strong state’s rights. He said the federal government is engaged in too many issues they shouldn’t weigh in at all, such as medical insurance.

He contended he could accept state’s decisions that differ from his own beliefs. In Texas, voters overwhelmingly supported the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. In New York they feel differently, he said, and “that’s fine with me.”

Perry had at least one visible sign of support for a presidential bid. A RGA staffer was showing colleagues a folded up T-shirt that said, “Rick Perry for President in 2012” in letters circling a picture of the smiling governor. The staffer testily rejected a photographer’s request to get a picture of the shirt after the event. The staffer wasn’t ready to make the presidential shirt official, just as Perry wasn’t ready to make a bid official.

scondon@aspentimes.com