A confident Rick Perry declared in Greenville Tuesday that he’ll be a better presidential candidate if he runs for the White House again than he was during his first bid four years ago.
Last time, Perry dropped in the polls after forgetting what he was trying to say during a televised debate and never recovered.
He dropped out of the race just before South Carolina’s first-in-the-South presidential preference primary in 2012.
The former Texas governor attended a Greenville County Republican Party fundraiser Tuesday night in the Montebello home of Greenville businessman Ron Hamilton.
He delivered a stump speech in Hamilton’s living room, standing in front of a stone fireplace in a black suit and red tie, clutching a microphone in one hand and gesticulating with the other.
Perry, who was scheduled to appear Wednesday at a Greenville Chamber event, told reporters at the fundraiser that they can expect to see him again in South Carolina.
“I’m going to be here pretty often over the course of the next year or so,” he said. “We’ll probably be back for a little football in the fall would be my bet.”
Perry also said that he’ll perform better if he runs for president again, a decision he said he’d make in May or June.
A lot of Americans have gotten their first impression of him over the past 24 months, Perry said.
“People have seen me in action securing the border with Mexico,” he said. “They’ve seen me leading a state with this disease of Ebola.”
Perry said his last race for president was “really frustrating and a great disappointment for me.”
“I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t prepared. This time I’m both.”
Barry Coleman, 56, was one of about 130 people who paid $15 a head for a chance to see Perry.
Coleman said he hasn’t decided who he’ll vote for in the 2016 presidential primary, but he likes that Perry served as an Air Force pilot.
“I think we’re going to need someone with at least a military background with the things that our country’s facing worldwide,” said Coleman, branch manager for Carson’s Nut, Bolt & Tool.
Another Greenville resident who attended the fundraiser, 86-year-old retiree John Kiriakides, said he’d vote for Perry if he decides to run.
“He’s honest. He’s got a backbone,” Kiriakides said. “And he’s had a lot of experience running the state of Texas.”
Also at the fundraiser was Katon Dawson, a former state GOP chairman who’s working for Perry as a consultant.
Dawson likened the fight for the Republican nomination to a NASCAR race.
“We’re going to start swapping paint after Labor Day, and you’re not going to have that full crowd come the first of the year,” Dawson said. “Rick Perry will be there the first of the year.”