PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Friday in a visit to a key early voting state that he was unprepared for and humbled by his first run for president in 2012 and will work harder if there's a next time around.
Perry addressed a group of business leaders in New Hampshire and told them he had not decided yet whether to run again in 2016.
His 2012 campaign ended badly when he made several missteps, including a highly publicized gaffe when he froze up during a televised debate. Perry admitted he underestimated the intensity of a presidential campaign.
"Running for president of the United States, I don't care how good you might think you might be," he said. "Whether you've been elected governor of Texas three times and served for 12 years, it is not good enough from the standpoint of the preparation to run for the presidency of the United States."
If he runs, Perry said, voters can expect a different candidate.
"I've spent a lot of time in preparation," he said. "That's not to say I've made a decision I'm going to run. I haven't. But the reason I don't choose to run will not be because I'm ill-prepared."
Perry was scheduled to meet top Republicans and attend at least a half-dozen events during his two-day visit, including one sponsored by the conservative political group Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
Perry was indicted last week by a grand jury in Austin, Texas, on charges stemming from his veto last summer of state funds for public corruption prosecutors. He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday and has said he's confident the indictments will be exposed as nothing but a politically motivated attempt at retaliation. He didn't shy away from discussing the indictment on Friday, telling the business leaders he would be exonerated.
So far, the indictment — and Perry's response — appear to only be galvanizing New Hampshire Republicans, according to Steve Duprey, a GOP national committee member and former chairman of the state party.
"I think that he is taking the right approach that it's wrong, unjust and political," Duprey said. "Indicting the governor for vetoing funds because he thought a convicted drunk shouldn't be a prosecutor is wrong."
That sentiment was echoed by some in Friday's pro-business, anti-regulation crowd who gave him a warm reception. Eddie Edwards, a Republican running for state Senate, brushed off the indictment and praised Perry's veto of the funding.
"Governor, I want to tell you I admire your courage in standing up and holding people accountable," Edwards said.
Perry spent much of his 50-minute talk to the business leaders sounding like a man with his eye on the Oval Office. He criticized the federal government for what he called its failure to secure the southern border and a foreign policy he said has exposed the country to dangers from groups like the Islamic State. Perry noted this week's videotaped slaying of New Hampshire journalist James Foley and also discussed North Korea, China, job creation and the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., that followed the police shooting of an 18-year-old black man.
Wide-ranging remarks about domestic and foreign issues, together with the New Hampshire trip and visits to other key early states, won't do much to tamp down speculation that Perry will mount another bid. With more than a year before the primary season heats up and two full years before the 2016 presidential contest, he is laying the groundwork early this time around.
"I just think you have to spend a lot of time in these states if you're going to do it," he said. "Generally, there's a courtship that goes on. There's a period of time that you need to spend with people. They need to know you and you need to know them. And I didn't do that last time."
Democrats are using his visit to try to hang Perry around the neck of the two Republicans likely to run for U.S. Senate and governor.
"Now that the New Hampshire Republican Party has made it clear they will continue to welcome Perry to the Granite State despite his recent criminal indictment, will Scott Brown and Walt Havenstein also embrace the disgraced Texas governor?" Democratic Party spokesman Bryan Lesswing said.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.