WASHINGTON — This time, Rick Perry has nowhere to go but up. Four years after his first presidential campaign was crushed by the weight of his debate gaffe and stump speech mishaps, the governor who spent 14 years presiding over Texas launched his second bid for the Republican nomination on Thursday.
“I’m running for the presidency of the United States,” Perry said at a rally in Addison, Texas, adding earlier “we don’t have to settle for a world in chaos or an America that shrinks from its responsibilities.”
He’s ditched the signature cowboy boots and added black-rimmed glasses. He’s spent the intervening years recovering from health problems and boning up on policy.
Now, Perry is asking GOP primary voters for a second chance.
He formally launched his campaign for the 2016 Republican nomination at Addison Airport, outside Dallas.
But Perry first released a video online early Thursday morning, telling voters “we have the power to make our country new again.”
“If we’re going to revive this American dream again we need a president who provides leadership that transcends the petty partisanship we’ve seen in the last few years. Someone that’s been tested and a president who tells the American people the truth,” Perry says in a stump speech used in the video.
“We need a president who bridges the partisan divide rather than widen — who brings people together. We must do right and risk the consequences.”
At his event Thursday, he is flanked by a list of military veterans, including several Navy SEALs and Taya Kyle, the widow of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle — a group that allows Perry to highlight his five years in the Air Force.
Kyle vouched for Perry in an email to supporters inviting them to the campaign kick-off.
“I got to know Rick and Anita Perry outside of the public eye, where I’ve had an up-close view of their humility and commitment to doing the right thing for people regardless of who gets the credit,” she wrote. “Believe me, they are a breath of fresh air in a political system full of people playing games and twisting the truth.”
Perry struggled badly during his 2012 campaign. He entered the Republican race to great conservative fanfare in August 2011 and unseated Mitt Romney from the party’s pole position — but quickly saw that status erode.
There was the “oops” moment in a CNBC debate, when Perry couldn’t remember the name of one of the three federal agencies he said he wanted to abolish. There was also a New Hampshire speech where voters wondered aloud afterward whether he’d been drinking.
Almost four years later, he enters the race struggling to make the top 10 in polls of a much-stronger Republican field, and with work to do to earn a second chance with voters.
After his Thursday launch, Perry will head to Iowa, where on Saturday he’ll be in the city of Perry to kick off a “Ride with Rick” event that benefits the Puppy Jake Foundation, a non-profit that provides service dogs to wounded veterans.
He’ll ride a motorcycle belonging to Taylor Morris, a Navy explosive ordinance disposal technician from Cedar Falls, Iowa who hasn’t been able to ride it since being injured in Afghanistan.
The ride will end in Boone, Iowa, where Perry will then participate in Sen. Joni Ernst’s “Roast and Ride” event — and begin courting voters in the first state to hit the polls.
The state has been Perry’s focal point since 2014. He’s made more than a dozen visits to Iowa, where he’s visited far-flung locales while remaining under the radar — and far from the media circus that followed his first bid.