His riff on states’ rights and the need for a drastically curbed federal government got the activists in the audience of about 1,000 on their feet.
“Nowhere does the Constitution … give federal officials primary responsibility over the air we breathe, the land we farm or the water we drink,” Perry said. “And nowhere does it say Congress has the right to federalize health care!”
It was the most energetic audience response for any speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference, topping even the rapturous applause Sen. Ted Cruz received a day earlier.
“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,” Perry said.
Like pretty much every CPAC speaker, he lamented assorted misdeeds and poor judgment from President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats, and called for “the right kind of leaders.”
“How can the greatest nation on earth continue to spend its way to astounding debt without the bill ever coming due?” Perry said. “How can we appease a Syrian tyrant and embolden his Russian ally, without the bill ever coming due?”
As he often does, the governor played evangelist for the wisdom of GOP governors, in contrast to the party’s congressional wing, the power base for many other 2016 contenders, including Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
He cited the accomplishments of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and governors in Wisconsin, South Carolina and Florida. By contrast, he said, Democratic-run California and New York have struggled.
“They’re implementing the tired old recipe of back-breaking taxes and regulations that are larger than a 30-ounce Big Gulp,” he said.
And he didn’t hold back on boasting about Texas, where his 14-year tenure as governor ends in 10 months.
“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 proportions,” Perry said. “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.”
Sen. John Cornyn, the deputy GOP leader in the chamber, spoke next, confessing that “Governor Perry’s kind of a tough act to follow.”
Fresh from his victory in Tuesday’s primary, Cornyn alluded to pushback he’s gotten from the tea party wing, well-represented at CPAC, while focusing mainly on Obama.
“Together, let’s support conservative candidates. Let’s win and let’s bring accountability back to Washington,” he said, after lamenting what he called a lack of accountability on the Benghazi attack, the IRS scandal, and the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking episode.