Texas Gov. Rick Perry brought life to a sleepy crowd at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, with a barn-burner address filled with red meat for the audience.
Perry, a 2012 presidential contender whose campaign quickly collapsed once he became a front-runner, has been working to rehab his image among Republicans and voters nationally in preparation for a potential run in 2016. At CPAC, Perry sold the crowd on his vision for a smaller, more efficient federal government.
"It is time for Washington to focus on the few things the constitution establishes as the federal government's role, defend our country, provide a cogent foreign policy, and what the heck, deliver the mail, preferably on time and on Saturdays," he said, drawing loud rounds of applause. "Get out of the health care business, get out of the education business, stop hammering industries, let the sleeping giant of American enterprise create prosperity again.
"My fellow conservatives, the future of this nation is upon you," he added. "It belongs to you."
Perry opened his speech saying "it's time for a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas," laying out the successes under his watch in Texas, which has undergone an economic boom.
Perry has sought to recast himself as a conservative intellectual force—a far cry from the "oops" moment that came to define his 2012 campaign.
See a transcript of Perry speech below:
GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS, DELIVERS REMARKS AT THE CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL ACTION CONFERENCE
MARCH 7, 2014
SPEAKER: GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS
[*] PERRY: Come on, get it up.
Good morning. Yeah, it is a good morning in America.
The best part about it is that we're getting to be in the presence and stand in the presence of American patriots.
I'm reminded this morning of words that speak to the American soul, words spoken by Thomas Jefferson, who said, "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing."
My friends, our country is in peril. Our debt's at a record amount. Our economy -- in this economic recovery -- is absolutely stagnant. Our place in the world is weakened.
So I have a simple solution. It's time for a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas.
But instead of looking to Washington to find the front lines of the battle, I ask you to look to the states, where we find the laboratories of innovation and 50 different experiments in democracy taking place.
Now, among the states, we see two visions for America. There's the vision common in blue states where the state plays an increasing role in the lives of its citizens. In these states, taxes are on the rise, pension programs are out of control, and jobs are leaving by the truck loads.
And then, there's the vision common to American red America. If you will.
The red state America vision, where the freedom of the individual comes first. The reach of government is limited.
In these states, taxes are low. Spending's under control. Jobs are on the rise. And opportunity is being sought far and wide.
We see opportunity flourishing in states led by governors like Nikki Haley, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, Rick Scott.
(APPLAUSE) (inaudible), under Governor Haley's South Carolina moved 20,000 citizens from welfare to work. Under Bobby Jindal, Louisiana has become more competitive for jobs by implementing smart regulations. And under Scott Walker, red state principles have been brought to Wisconsin.
You see, the public union leaders, they balked. And they instigated this massive disruption of government. But Scott Walker, he had the courage to reform pensions programs fairly, the people of Wisconsin didn't recall him; they stood behind him and they re-elected him.
And under Rick Scott, Florida's unemployment rate has dropped for three straight years. When just four years ago -- four years ago -- his predecessor presided over the loss of more than 800,000 jobs. And now that guy wants his job back. And with a record like that, appropriately, he is running this time to seek it as a Democrat.
So you've got to ask yourself: What is the common denominator in these states? It's conservative governors who cut taxes, who control spending, who invest in jobs. It is conservative governors who trust the people more than the machinery of government. It's conservative governors who know the freedom of the individual must come before the power of the state.
PERRY: And the contrast -- the contrast with blue states is crystal clear. Pick any two. Heck, let's pick the two biggest, New York and California.
From the East Coast to the West Coast, no two states have lost more personal income to other states than New York and California.
If you -- if you rent a U-Haul to move your company, it costs twice as much to go from San Francisco to Austin than the other around, because you can't find enough trucks to flee the Golden State.
And -- and New York has got this new advertising campaign -- the new New York...
But they're implementing the tired old recipe of backbreaking taxes and -- yeah, you guessed it -- regulations that are larger than a 30 ounce big gulp.
Now -- now, let's pick a large red state. Shoot, let's pick Texas.
We cut taxes, we didn't spend all the money, we created fair and predictable regulations and we stopped personal injury trial lawyers from filing frivolous lawsuits.
We have created almost 30 percent of the nation's jobs while keeping taxes among the nation's lowest. We have presided over not only an energy boom, but the nation's largest population boom and an economic boom of monumental proportion.
We have demonstrated that no state can tax and spend its way to prosperity. But with the right policies, you can grow your way there.
The -- the red state/blue state debate -- this debate really matters, because it's about the future of America and -- and the vision that wins out. Either this big government protectionist nanny state version, offered by liberal leaders, or the limited government, unsubsidized freedom state offered by conservative leaders will determine the future of our nation.
America -- America cannot sustain its current fiscal course. We cannot continue to borrow trillions of dollars from bankers in Beijing and Brazil and Tokyo.
And the downgrading of our credit -- for the first time two years ago, it shouldn't have surprised anyone. Our leaders were -- were fighting over a few billion dollars in spending cuts while our debt has soared by trillions in the last five years.
How can the -- how can the greatest nation on Earth continue to spend its way to astounding debt without the bill ever coming due? How can we explode federal and state budgets with unreformed entitlement programs without the bill ever coming due?
How can we appease a Syrian tyrant and embolden his Russian ally without the bill ever coming due?
There is a price to be paid for policies that destroy our economy and embolden our foreign enemies. And I am here today to say we don't have to accept recent history; we just need to change the presidency.
PERRY: It's not too late for America to lead in the world.
But it starts by leading at home. And it starts by returning to the founding principles of democracy, bound in our constitution. Among the enumerated powers of Congress are the power to lay and collect taxes, to pay debts and provide for the common defense.
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, to declare war, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain (inaudible).
But nowhere does the constitution say we should federalize classrooms.
Nowhere does it give federal officials -- nowhere does it give federal officials primary responsibility of the air we breathe, the land we farm, the water we drink. And nowhere does it say "Congress has the right to federalize health care".
You see, it is inherent in human nature, once given power to never give it back. And let me tell you something, this human tendency is a bipartisan offense. That is why -- that is why we must elect the right kind of leaders to represent us in Washington.
Leaders who devolve power to the states and not rob them of it. Leaders who believe in free markets and not a bigger federal government. Leaders who respect the freedom of the individual instead of depriving them of the power to realize their dream.
It is time for Washington to focus on the few things the constitution establishes as the federal government's role, defend our country, provide a cogent foreign policy, and what the heck, deliver the mail, preferably on time and on Saturdays.
Get out of the health care business, get out of the education business, stop hammering industries, let the sleeping giant of American enterprise create prosperity again.
My fellow conservatives, the future of this nation is upon you. It belongs to you.
You have the power to change America, you have the power to speak to our newest hope and in addition to our age-old dreams, you are the path to the future, a light on a distant shore. And you represent the renewed hope that America can be great again.
God bless you.
And God bless this great country we live in.