DENVER -- Some wives don't want their husbands to run for president -- Alma Powell (Colin Powell) and Cheri Daniels (Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels).
Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry doesn't have that problem. In an interview with me following a well-received address to the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, said, "My wife is a nurse and the daughter of a country doctor. She sees Obamacare with the potential to devastate this country. ... She basically said, 'Listen, I know you love your job and you're comfortable there, but your country is in trouble and you need to get off the sideline and get in this game, serve your country and do your duty.' When someone you've known and been married to for 42-plus years (says that), it had a real impact on me. I had to go back and re-evaluate my consistent message that I don't want to be president of the United States."
If Anita Perry is onboard, can her husband be far behind?
The "reluctant" candidate sounds like he's all but in: "Seventy days ago this was not on my radar screen. I was happy and comfortable being governor of the state of Texas, one of the greater economies there is in this country. I will let the record speak for itself on job creation and what we've done."
Perry's job creation record is formidable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 32,000 new jobs were created in Texas in June, more than in any other state. Proving his policies were not a one-off, between June 2010 and June 2011, Texas added 220,000 new jobs, again more than the other "57 states," as Barack Obama might say.
Perry sees the momentum that put the House back in Republican control and also narrowed the Senate Democratic majority carrying over into the 2012 election: "I don't see it out of the realm of possibility to pick up another 20 to 30 House seats and a majority of 60 Republican senators and a consistent conservative president to really make a difference."
He doesn't make the connection, but this sounds like a criticism of fellow Texan George W. Bush for not being consistently conservative enough as president when he enjoyed a Republican congressional majority.
Perry is no "let's all get along" conservative. He wants to make a political difference, mentioning the revival of the 10th Amendment, which guarantees states' rights, as the way to reduce encroaching federal power: "America is not going to move forward until we remove restrictions of over-taxation, over-regulation and over-litigation on the job creators and free them so the jobs can be created. This president is trying to engage in class warfare and shooting high-powered bullets at people who have corporate jets, but the bullets pass through those wealthy people and hit blue-collar workers who rely upon those wealthy individuals who risk the capital to create the jobs."
Supreme Court justices are Perry's preferred way for re-routing the wrong direction he sees the country taking under President Obama. As president, he promises to name "strict constructionists" like Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
Conservatives are nervous about whether any of the announced GOP candidates can defeat President Obama, who continues to slip in the polls (the latest Gallup Poll shows his approval has fallen to 40 percent). Are they fearful of repeating the Fred Thompson Effect? Thompson, the former Tennessee senator, who was a late addition to the 2008 presidential race, never seemed to have the stomach for it, nor did his wife. Perry tells me, "I wouldn't get in if I didn't have the stomach for it. Running three times for governor of Texas, six times statewide, if I step in, they can bet it will be all-in. There will be plenty of vinegar and whatever else needs to be in the recipe."
In a presidential straw poll conducted at the Western Conservative Summit Perry came in second to Herman Cain, but since the politically inexperienced Cain won't win the nomination, Perry's finish demonstrates strength among at least some conservatives.
Perry says he'll announce something "by the end of summer." Meteorologically, that's Sept. 23. Politically, it sounds as if he's already decided to run.
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Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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