Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination was in Fort Smith on Saturday and joked that part of his visit was to do “a bit of scouting” in Arkansas now that Texas A&M is joining the Southeastern Conference.
Perry, who also joked that his time as frontrunner were “the most exciting three minutes” of his campaign, said he is willing to campaign for the GOP nominee — likely to be former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — in the effort to unseat President Barack Obama.
“Absolutely,” Perry said when asked if he would actively campaign for Romney. “If it is Mr. Romney, or if it’s one of the other two that are still in, you can bet I’m going to be out campaigning for them and doing everything I can to make sure Barack Obama is a one-term president.”
Perry was in Fort Smith to speak to about 300 gathered for the Lincoln Day Dinner sponsored by the Sebastian County Republican Committee.
Perry, 61, with more than 11 years in the Texas Governor’s office, is the longest continuously serving governor in the U.S. Perry was elected Texas’ Lt. Gov. in 1998 and assumed the office when then-Gov. George W. Bush was elected U.S. President in the 2000 election.
Perry announced Aug. 13, 2011 he would run for the White House. His early poll numbers had many media pundits saying he would secure the nomination. But his relatively late campaign start combined with weak debate performances pushed down his poll numbers. On Jan. 19, Perry dropped out of the race and endorsed Gingrich.
For most of his speech, Perry railed against what he called the big-government policies of Obama — especially the federal health care law — and encouraged the crowd to support the GOP nominee for president.
In noting that April 15 was Monday, Perry fired off one his most crowd-pleasing comments of the night.
“We send way too damn much money to Washington,” Perry said.
In an interview prior to his speech, Perry refused to speculate on who Romney might select as the vice presidential candidate.
“I just try to stay away from that. I’m trying to run the state of Texas and compete with Arkansas,” Perry said.
The event also included a remembrance of former Sebastian County Judge Bud Harper. Harper, who also served as the director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management under Gov. Mike Huckabee, passed away Mar. 28. He was 81.
At one of the tables, an chair was left empty to recognize Harper’s passing.
Also, Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, a native of Mansfield, read a proclamation recognizing Harper’s time in public service. Darr presented the proclamation to Harper’s widow, Dr. Jo Harper.