By Cameron Joseph - 07/08/13 08:20 PM EDT
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) announced Monday he won't seek reelection to a fourth full term in 2014, but didn't close the door on a future presidential bid. [WATCH VIDEO]
"I remain excited about the future and the challenges ahead, but the time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership. Today I am announcing I will not seek reelection as governor of Texas," Perry said at a Monday afternoon press conference in San Antonio.
"I will spend the next 18 months working to create more jobs, opportunity and innovation. I will actively lead this great state, and I will also pray and reflect and work to determine my own future path."
Perry's speech sounded less like a swan song than a campaign address, and the event came complete with supporters waving “Texas works” signs and a slick campaign-style video to open the event.
“That wasn't a 'I've had a great run, thanks so much,' speech. It's a 'Texas works, the future is bright, and I'll be in touch' speech,” said Texas-based GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, who was at the speech.
Mackowiak predicted Perry would give the 2016 run a hard look.
“I think he wants to go out and do it if there's a reasonable chance of success. He wants to prove he's a better candidate than he came off as [during his 2012 presidential campaign],” he said.
“But there'll be some due diligence to see whether there's an opportunity to raise money and test how much did he permanently damage his national brand.”
Perry ascended to the Texas governorship after George W. Bush left the state for the White House, and has held the job ever since. He earned plaudits as a shrewd politician in Texas's rough-and-tumble political environment and served during a time of booming economic growth in the state.
But his reputation took a huge hit during his 2012 campaign, which crashed and burned after a promising start that saw the Texas governor lead early GOP polls.
Perry is best known nationally for his "oops" moment during a Republican presidential debate, when he couldn't remember the third federal department he wanted to shutter if elected.
Perry focused Monday on touting his and Texas’s accomplishments in a speech that echoed many of the themes of his presidential run.
But bouncing back could be difficult for Perry.
His once-dominant fundraising apparatus withered near the end of his first presidential campaign as he sank in the polls, and he’s less than beloved even in his home state.
Just 18 percent of Texas Republicans said Perry should run for president again in a recent survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. He came in sixth among potential GOP candidates in the poll with 7 percent support, far behind front-running Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who had 27 percent support.
"Being a competitor — 2012 left a bad taste in his mouth — not being in office and getting a late-term abortion bill through will make it very tempting for Perry. 'Oops,' though, is hard to forget,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.
Perry’s decision to retire clears the way for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) to run for governor. Abbott has already amassed more than $18 million for a potential campaign, and a number of former Perry staffers are helping him ready a potential bid for governor.
An Abbott spokesman said he "will make his intentions clear in the coming weeks" about whether he'll run for governor.
On the Democratic side, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) is giving the race a serious look.
Davis has recently become a darling of Democrats and liberals following her passionate filibuster of a Texas bill to limit abortion that Perry has pushed hard to pass. Texas Republicans are taking another crack at getting the bill through in a second legislative session.
Other possible Democratic candidates mentioned by state operatives include San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), though most expect him to wait a few more years before he makes a statewide bid, as well as Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer.
“[Davis] is probably looking at it a little more intently than others,” said Matt Angle, a Texas Democratic strategist who serves as an informal Davis adviser. “There's no question if Sen. Davis decides to run, she'd be an outstanding candidate, a formidable candidate.”
But Texas Republicans say no Democrat stands a chance in the race.
“Abbott is as close to a shoo-in both as a nominee and in the general election as one can be,” said Mackowiak. “He has no clear challenger in either party that can be a threat.”
Abbott led Davis 48 percent to 40 percent in a recent PPP poll.
— This story was originally posted at 2:30 p.m. and has been updated.