By Maria Recio, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)
WASHINGTON — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, possible GOP presidential candidates, courted conservatives Thursday in Washington by presenting themselves as chief executives with a vision.
Perry, the evening keynoter at the annual meeting of the American Principles Project, a conservative group, touted his experience in creating jobs in Texas, “the 13th largest economy in the world.”
But he told the enthusiastic crowd that it was not enough to be against the current administration.
“We must articulate what we are for,” said Perry. “And in that respect, as we look to 2016, we must remember we are not electing a critic-in-chief, we are electing a commander-in-chief.”
Perry said expanding energy production, reforming the tax code, reducing regulations, and providing an educated workforce were central to boosting the economy.
“Americans have become cynical that Washington can ever change,” said Perry. “And I am skeptical that an agent of change can come from Washington.”
Jindal used a luncheon speech to criticize Common Core, a set of educational standards that many conservatives have attacked as excessive regulation of local policy.
“Education is at the heart of who we are as a society,” said Jindal, and that should be determined locally, not by the federal government. He has sued the federal government over Common Core. Perry was an early critic of the program.
Both Republicans, who emphasized their track records as chief executives of their states, are looking at the 2016 race. Perry, in particular, is getting into campaign mode, trying to gain some momentum after the entry of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a potential contender.
Earlier on Thursday, Perry named 83 high-profile donors, many from Texas, to the advisory board of RickPAC, his political action committee. He’s heading to New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state, next week for a two-day swing.
Naming the donors was a way of signaling his potential fundraising prowess, at a time when Bush and others are wooing donors across the country and Perry is fighting an indictment at a crucial point in his campaign preparation.
Perry, who retired as governor in January after 14 years in office, lost a bid last week to have the two-count felony indictment against him dismissed. He was charged in August with abusing his office and coercing a public servant after he threatened to cut off funding for the Travis County public corruption unit if the district attorney in charge didn’t resign after being arrested for drunken driving. She refused to resign, and the governor vetoed the funding.
Perry is fighting the charges, saying they’re politically motivated.
“He’s under indictment, and that’s going to make it much more challenging for him to establish credibility,” said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential expert at the University of Texas, Austin. “It complicates a presidential candidacy.”
Perry underwent a style change last year, donning eyeglasses and abandoning cowboy boots (to help his bad back), which was seen as part of a bid to be taken more seriously. The Texan has been trying to erase the memory of his failed 2012 presidential campaign, famous for the “oops” moment during a debate when he forgot one of the three federal agencies he proposed abolishing.
“By the time the election was over, a significant amount of Republicans in Texas were shaking their heads at the governor’s performance,” said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University.
Perry has been prepping more for this campaign and at Thursday’s speech spoke about the next two years being “about a vision to restore America’s place in the world.”
He said that as governor he had helped secure the border with Mexico and he criticized the U.S. inaction in the Middle East.
Jindal, asked by reporters Thursday whether he’s running for president, said, “We’re thinking about it,” and added that he and his wife were talking and praying about it.
“If I were to run, it’s if I had something unique to bring to the race,” he said.
Photo: Denise Flores via Flickr