I was at the same event as Brian and got the same impression–this was a draft stump speech by Gov. Perry. There are three things a presidential candidate generally needs: 1) presence (does he fill the room?); 2) a narrative (does his biography and/or record add up to something?); 3) a theme (does he have a point in running?). Based on tonight, I’d say Perry could well have all three. Let’s take them in order:
1) I’d never seen him give a speech before, but he delivered a pretty effective stem-winder. He was passionate, funny, and sincere. He got a standing ovation and as soon as he finished people began to leave the room, i.e. they were there for him.
2) The Perry narrative is that–during a crisis of unemployment in the nation at large–he has made Texas into a jobs machine with a program of commonsense conservatism. He was filling in for Donald Trump tonight and said at the beginning of his speech, “He’s known for saying, ‘You’re fired.’ We’re known [in Texas] for saying, ‘You’re hired.’” He said someone told him recently, “‘Perry, you’re jobs-obsessed.’ I said, ‘Yep.’” Later on in the speech, he noted that his “state has a sign out that says, ‘Open for Business.’”
3) His theme is that Washington needs to adopt a Texas-like program, be cut down to size, and leave the states to be “laboratories of democracy.” He referred a couple of times to the “Oz of Washington.” He sarcastically said, “Those people in Washington know everything,” before hitting the EPA, ObamaCare, and the NLRB. He complained of the “tragedy that’s happening in America, of losing our freedom.” He warned that the “entrenched powers in Washington” will be hard to fight. Left unsaid–only for now, perhaps–is that he’s the man to fight them.
Perry will inevitably draw comparisons with George W. Bush, but there’s at least one big difference: This Texas governor is not selling “compassionate conservatism.” His message is limited government, pure and simple.