Three-term Texas Gov. and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry announced Monday that he will not seek re-election to a fourth term, prompting speculation about a possible second presidential run in 2016.
“I remain excited about the future and the challenges ahead but the time has come to pass on the mantel of leadership,” Perry told a crowd in San Antonio.
Perry gave no hint about his future plans, but said he would finish the remaining 18 months of his term and “pray and reflect” about his next move, which he added, he would “announce in due time.”
Some political strategists believe Perry’s announcement is a signal he’ll try again for the Republican presidential nomination. He’s rehired Mark Miner, his communications director from the failed 2012 presidential bid.
Perry’s announcement focused primarily on his achievements as governor, particularly in the area of job creation, where Texas leads a nation still struggling to achieve its own economic recovery. Perry said the state created 1.6 million new jobs during his tenure.
“This, in my opinion, is where we have done our best work,” Perry said of the state’s low taxes and reduced regulations. “Texas is the new frontier for opportunity and innovation in America today.”
Perry is already the longest-serving governor of Texas and his announcement at least gives him room to run if he decides to jump in the presidential race, say political experts.
“If Gov. Perry runs for president, he will now be free to position himself and raise money without having to worry about being re-elected in Texas,” Republican political strategist Ron Bonjean told the Washington Examiner.
Perry’s term expires in January 2015, which would give him ample time to prepare for the rigors of a presidential campaign.
Perry jumped in to the last presidential race in August 2012, rocketing quickly to the top of the polls but fading just as fast after repeated lackluster performances at the GOP debates. Perry insiders often blamed fatigue and medication needed after back surgery for his mistakes, including one debate response where he forgot the names of the federal agencies he would abolish.
Perry, 63, has served longer as governor than anyone else in Texas, taking over the job in 2000 when then-Republican Gov. George W. Bush won the White House. He is a staunch conservative and currently leading a state battle to ban abortions beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Some polls suggest his popularity has begun to wane in the state. Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm, found that 74 percent of 500 voters surveyed said Perry should not run for president in 2016.
The poll also showed that a slight majority of voters would vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton (48 percent) rather than Perry (44 percent) in the 2016 presidential election.