Rick Perry officially kicked off his long-expected bid for the 2012 GOP nomination Saturday, insisting the country's standing in the world is "in peril" because of President Obama's "rudderless leadership."
Speaking at a conservative gathering in South Carolina, the Texas governor delivered a harsh critique of Obama, slamming his handling of foreign policy and accusing the president of leading the country off a cliff when it comes to federal spending.
"How can a country fail so miserably to pay its bills?" Perry demanded, citing the nation's recent credit downgrade. "We cannot afford four more years of this rudderless leadership . . . A great country demands a better direction. A renewed nation needs a new president. It's time to get America working again."
Perry, who was in the news last weekend for headlining a prayer rally in Houston, has previously cast himself as a strong social conservative in the race. But his announcement largely focused on the economy, as he touted as a record of job growth in Texas as a leading reason why he should replace Obama.
In a line that received wild applause, Perry vowed that one of his first steps if elected would be to repeal Obama's controversial health care law and said, as president, he would work to shift more power back to individuals and the states.
"I will work every day to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your lives as I can," Perry declared.
Perry jumps into what is already a crowded GOP primary. Indeed, as Perry was declaring his 2012 intentions, many of his Republican rivals were on stage halfway across the country at Iowa's closely watched presidential straw poll. Even though Perry isn't on the ballot, his supporters have been out in force in the Ames event, encouraging attendees to submit the governor's name as a write-in candidate.
In South Carolina, the Texas governor did not mention any of his GOP rivals. Instead, Perry played up his record against Obama's, casting the president as someone who has "alienated" our foreign allies and "jeopardized" the nation's future by running up the federal deficit.
He talked up his own "unwavering belief" in America—hinting at a frequent conservative slam against Obama that implies the president lacks patriotism. It was a theme echoed in a message posted on Perry's new presidential website.
"What I learned in my 20's traveling the globe as an Air Force pilot, our current president has yet to acknowledge in his 50's--that we are the most exceptional nation on the face of the earth," Perry said. "With God's help, and your courage, we will take our country back. "
The Obama campaign, which has been largely quiet during the GOP primary, issued a statement within minutes of Perry's announcement, describing the Texas governor as a "carbon copy" of Republicans in Washington.