DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) painted himself as a border warrior in a fiery speech on Saturday, looking to convince immigration hawks to come to his corner.
The governor ripped into President Obama and Washington's response to the nation's border issues and got huge applause when he said he'd deployed the Texas National Guard to the border during last summer's influx of young refugees from Central America.
"If Washington refuses to secure the border with Mexico, Texas will," he declared to a standing ovation. "Congress has become this debating society. They fail to act, they only talk… people are dying."
Perry got an assist from a group of pro-immigration protestors who held up "Deportable?" signs, a reference to Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingGOP brawls over Trump on eve of first Jan. 6 hearing Pence to visit Iowa to headline event for congressman Former Steve King challenger on rural voters in GOP states: 'They hate Democrats' MORE's (R-Iowa) recent tweets knocking First Lady Michelle Obama for hosting a "Dreamer" at the State of the Union. As they yelled the crowd rose to yell them down, and Perry powered through to strong applause.
The governor's roaring speech shows how the immigration issue has shifted since his last disastrous run for office. Perry got a hearty introduction from King, the country's most high-profile border conservative, who he called "brother" as he hit the stage. As he exited he bear-hugged the congressman before pumping their fists in the air.
The former governor also touted the big job creation in his decade and a half in office, contrasting that to the dysfunction in Washington.
"In the last 14 years, Texas has created almost one-third of all the new jobs in America. Think about that," he said at one point. "Americans are sick of this partisan bickering, of the grandstanding and the gridlock... Let's get our fiscal house in order. It's time to make some tough choices about spending."
Perry is, by all accounts, running a much better campaign-in-waiting than last time around, and Iowa conservatives spoke approvingly of him throughout the weekend. But it remains to be seen whether he can get past the debacle of a campaign he ran in 2012.