MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Monday his tour of New Hampshire is preparation for a second presidential bid, but he won't make a final decision on that until at least May.
Perry is the first prospective 2016 presidential candidate to stop in politically important New Hampshire after the midterm elections that handed control of Congress to the GOP. In Manchester, he cautioned Republicans to consider why voters made that choice for the final two years of President Barack Obama's tenure.
"It wasn't 'We love you, Republicans, ' " Perry said. "It's, 'We're going to give you Republicans an opportunity to show whether you can lead or not.' "
Perry outlined the three areas where he thinks Republicans should focus their attention: Energy, tax policy and securing the border. He also criticized Obama's foreign policy and spoke about the need to rebuild the U.S. military.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate can show leadership by voting to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and working quickly to secure the border, Perry said. At the federal and state level, Republican lawmakers should revamp corporate tax laws, he said. Perry also said the country's foreign policy is "mired in confusion and lacking in clarity," and he named Russia, Iran and the Islamic State group as threats to the United States and world stability.
"If peace is what we seek, the answer is not to withdraw from threats abroad," he said, according to prepared remarks.
Perry placed sixth in the New Hampshire presidential primary in 2012 and dropped out of the race shortly thereafter. Perry said he wasn't fully prepared the first time around, and he's now developing the relationships he failed to create. Mike Dennehy, a longtime New Hampshire strategist working as an adviser to Perry, said voters so far seem willing to give Perry a second chance, with some telling him so directly. The team now working with Perry is entirely new, Dennehy said.
But former Republican Party chairman Fergus Cullen says he's doubtful Perry will be able to rehabilitate his image enough to earn a second look from New Hampshire voters.
"Sometimes the first date goes so badly you don't get a second one," Cullen said.