AUSTIN (AP) – Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday he is too busy concentrating on the Texas Legislature to think about the presidential buzz surrounding him this week.
“I try not to be distracted by any of it,” Perry said. The governor has repeatedly said he has no plans to run for president, and his top campaign consultant is currently working for Newt Gingrich, who entered the race last week.
A “Draft Perry 2012” Web site went live late Wednesday, sponsored by California Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda. Five other California lawmakers are listed as sponsors. Logue led a delegation of California lawmakers that visited Austin in April to see why so many businesses from the state had moved to Texas.
“I had the opportunity to sit and meet with Governor Perry and he explained that when he was first elected he made creating jobs and building the economy of Texas his No. 1 priority — and that’s the kind of vision and leadership our nation and economy so desperately needs,” Logue wrote on the site.
The Washington Times reported Tuesday that a movement was underway to draft Perry into the 2012 presidential race. On Wednesday, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh devoted 20 minutes of his show to extolling Perry’s virtues as a presidential candidate.
“Rick Perry stands in opposition to inside the Beltway Washington elites, I don’t care what party they are. And he’s got great hair,” Limbaugh said. “You are not going to be elected president unless you’ve got at least a 10-inch part in your hair.”
Speaking to reporters after a speech Thursday on turning Austin into a high-tech center, Perry said he would not be distracted by the buzz.
“I’m standing where I’m standing, and we’ve got a legislative session that is substantially more important to the people of the state of Texas and to me to get distracted by any talk, whether it’s what you would call flattering or what I would call maybe not so flattering,” Perry said. “The people of the state of Texas want us to be focused on getting a budget.”
Texas lawmakers have been struggling to tackle a $27 billion budget deficit to maintain the current level of state services. The Republican-controlled House and Senate have slashed billions, but are still trying to reach a deal on education spending.
Perry said the state must live within its means and has rejected proposals to spend more than $3.2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, or to raise taxes. The legislative session ends May 30.
Despite the apparent lack of interest in a presidential bid, Perry issued an unusual statement on foreign policy Thursday, criticizing President Barack Obama’s speech on the Middle East.
“President Obama’s speech today continues a misguided policy of alienating our traditional allies, in this case Israel, one of our strongest partners in the war on terror. As someone who has visited Israel numerous times, I know that that it is impracticable to revert to the 1967 lines,” Perry said. “President Obama is asking our Israeli friends to give up too much security and territory as a prelude to a renewed peace process.”
The statement was part of a chorus of criticism coming from actual and potential Republican presidential candidates.
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