Rick Perry, the longest serving governor in Texas history, said Monday he would not run for re-election in 2014. The Republican has held the office since 2000, when he succeeded President George W. Bush. Some speculate his decision could mean he wants to continue following in Bush's footsteps, all the way to the White House.
"The time has come to pass on the mantle of leadership – today I am announcing I will not seek re-election as governor of Texas," Perry said during a speech in San Antonio. "I'll also pray and reflect and work to determine my own future path. I make this announcement with a deep sense of humility and appreciation for the time and trust the people of this state has given me."
Perry took a stab at winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 but stumbled famously during a televised debate when he couldn't list the three federal agencies he wanted to eliminate. He recovered from the moment with an "oops" and a laugh. He also was heavily criticized by his opponents for holding more moderate views on undocumented immigrants, saying the children of those here illegally should be able to pay in-state tuition to state universities.
Perry alluded to the presidential rumors, but declined to tip his hand about any decision.
"I'll also pray and reflect and work to determine my own future path," he said of his final 18 months in office. "Any future considerations I will announce in due time and I will arrive at that decision appropriately, but my focus will remain on Texas."
Ford O'Connell, a Republican political strategist who worked on the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008, says Perry has plenty of time to recover from his previous missteps if he were to run in 2016.
"It may be hard to forget 'oops' but his decision not to run for re-election makes it more likely he runs for president in 2016," he says. "Republicans know they have a problem [on the immigration issue] and being a border state guy, if he chooses his words more wisely it will not hurt him or put him in the cross hairs like [Florida Sen.] Marco Rubio currently is."
Rubio, a former conservative darling, recently helped shepherd a comprehensive immigration reform bill through the Senate much to the chagrin of his party's right wing.
O'Connell says by leaving office in 2014, Perry can devote more time to fundraising and political organizing.
"The thing about Rick is he is a competitor and 2012 left a bad taste in his mouth. And in a crowded primary field, he could do very well particularly in the beginning," he says.
Mike Leavitt, a former Republican National Committee chief of staff and current GOP political consultant, says Perry would be a strong candidate, but just one of many high-profile names on the Republicans will-they-or-won't-they list.
"It's very clear that Republicans have a tremendous crop of potential candidates for 2016 and he will have to work very hard to communicate his message to Republican primary voters," he says. "People like [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie, Sen. Rubio, [Texas Sen. Ted] Cruz and [Louisiana Gov. Bobby] Jindal appeal to a wide swath of voters that will be paying attention and participating in the 2016 primary."
O'Connell adds that Perry would be able to better distinguish himself from a crowded field by passing the late-term abortion bad currently pending – and garnering headlines – in Texas.
"If he wants to differentiate himself from the others he needs to get the late term abortion bill passed because now they are trying to dice that primary electorate from Iowa to South Carolina," O'Connell says.