Texas Gov. Rick Perry touted how governors who need to find their own solutions make the best presidents before a group of South Carolinians who might consider voting for the Republican in another White House run in 2016.
Perry said on Tuesday that states, like his, have lowered taxes and streamlined regulations to boost business development. He decried the new federal health-care law’s “one-size fits all” approach that tries to serve diverse groups of people with a wide range of medical conditions.
"It is a struggle even for a state to do that and to think Washington can do that is the height of hypocrisy,” the 2012 presidential candidate told the Rotary Club of Downtown Spartanburg in the first day of a two-day swing through the Upstate.
In what he called an economic-development speech, Perry questioned why the federal government wants to add people for a failed national health system under the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s like putting 1,000 more people on the Titanic,” he said. Perry took time to praise South Carolina and its governor, Nikki Haley, for recent economic successes, including winning a Boeing jet manufacturing plant. Texas and South Carolina have vied in recent months for arms manufacturers wanting to leave states with stricter gun-control laws.
“I know Nikki Haley is putting policies in place to make South Carolina more competitive than Texas,” Perry said. “Governors, like Nikki Haley, who know they are in competition and put on their running shoes make the rest of us uncomfortable.”
He also acknowledged a hard truth for University of South Carolina fans by apologizing for Texas A&M not beating Missouri on Saturday so the Gamecocks could win the SEC Eastern Division title and get a trip to the conference title game in Atlanta.
Perry is believed to be taking to temperature of S.C. voters about mounting another presidential bid during his two-day visit.
He left the Rotary speech with a trio of Spartanburg County GOP state representatives. Perry is the keynote speaker at the winter banquet of the S.C. Republican Party and the Spartanburg County GOP on Tuesday evening.
Before the evening speech, Perry planned to visit the city's main hospital and a tour of a pharmaceutical plant.
On Wednesday, he will speak at the annual meeting of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina in Greenville and a fundraiser for Blue Ridge Council of the Boy Scouts for America. He also plans to visit a private-public Greenville business center.
The Lone Star State boss has not announced a 2016 bid for the White House and declined after his speech to discuss any speculation about a run that has grown in recent weeks. He spoke at a county GOP party fundraiser last month in Iowa, which like South Carolina is an early primary state.
Perry is behind some other Republican White House probables. He finished seventh among potential GOP presidential candidates in a nationwide poll taken by CNN last month.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie led to the survey. Also ahead of Perry in the poll were two senators who have visited South Carolina multiple times this year -- Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Perry is making his second visit to South Carolina this year.
He was one of three fellow governors who spoke at Haley's re-election announcement in Greenville in August. The other governors who attended, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, also are part of 2016 chatter.
Perry dropped out of the 2012 presidential race two days before the South Carolina GOP primary and endorsed eventual primary winner, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
But Gingrich lost the party nomination to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who received backing from Haley.
The S.C. Democratic Party welcomed Perry by noting Texas education budget cuts and state tax laws that critics say favor the rich. They also took shots at Haley, who is expected to face Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen in a rematch of their 2010 race next year.
"There are not enough campaign stops in the world to make the people of South Carolina forget the massive failures of Nikki Haley’s government," the party said in a statement. "It must be true that birds of a feather flock together, because failed Gov. Rick Perry has been almost as bad for the people of Texas as Nikki Haley’s incompetent government is for South Carolina."