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Perry Says White House Talk Won't Distract Him

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune
Gov. Rick Perry makes a playful salute to the son of State Rep. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, as he walked through the House chamber on his way to a meeting with House Speaker Joe Straus at noon on May 19, 2011.

Most people around the Texas Capitol are taking bets on whether there will be a special session this summer to dig out from the wreckage of a budgetary train wreck. But the chattering class — the political pundits who make a living talking rather than passing (or killing) bills — are eager to make bets on something else: whether Gov. Rick Perry is going to run for president.

Never mind that Perry has said repeatedly, and pretty darn emphatically, that he won’t mount a White House bid next year. He's enjoying another little boomlet lately, what with fomer U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s troubles and the somewhat surprising exit from the race by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who might have courted some of the same folks Perry could rally.

Talk show host Rush Limbaugh is the latest to jump on the Perry-should-run bandwagon, dedicating 20 minutes of his mega-ditto air time to extol the virtues of the longest serving governor in the United States.

So, of course, Perry was asked about it on Thursday, just as all this high drama is going on at the Capitol. Instead of shooting it down hard again, he just said he wasn’t going to be “distracted” by it.

The comments came after governor picked up an award as “Technology Champion of the Year” at the Austin Technology Council CEO Summit at Austin's Four Seasons Hotel.

In his speech to high-tech executives, Perry highlighted his favorite theme — that Texas is the center of the economic universe because it has “cultivated a culture that rewards innovation and gives innovators freedom from oppressive government red tape.”

Afterwards, a reporter asked Perry to comment on the White House buzz. He didn’t exactly rule it out, as he usually does, but he addressed it in direct response to a question about whether he found the speculation to be “flattering.”

“I’ve got a legislative session that is substantially more important to the people of the state of Texas and to me,” Perry said. “To get distracted by any talk, whether it’s what you would call flattering or whether it’s what I would call maybe not so flattering — there’s plenty of that out there too. I try not to be distracted by any of it. The people of the state of Texas want us collectively to be focused on getting a budget, getting these issues dealt with.”

Perry was asked if he still ruled out running for president, but the “last question” had been called and the governor walked away.

A few minutes later, he was back on the floor of the Texas House, cajoling and jawboning, hoping to get a budget deal that will avoid a special session.

Jay Root is a native of Liberty. He never knew any reporters growing up, and he has never taken a journalism class in his life. But somehow he got hooked on the news business. It all started when he walked into the offices of The Daily Texan, his college newspaper, during his last year at the University of Texas in 1987. He couldn't the resist the draw: it was the the biggest collection of misfits ever assembled. After graduating, he took a job at a Houston chemical company and realized it wasn't for him. Soon he was applying for an unpaid internship at the Houston Post in 1990, and it turned into a full-time job that same year. He has been a reporter ever since. He has covered natural disasters, live music and Texas politics — not necessarily in that order. He was Austin bureau chief of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a dozen years, most of them good. He also covered politics and the Legislature for The Associated Press before joining the staff of the Tribune.
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