ADDISON, Tex. — Rick Perry, the former Texas governor whose 2012 campaign for the White House turned into a political disaster that humbled and weakened the most powerful Republican in the state, announced Thursday that he will run for president again in 2016.
Mr. Perry is the latest candidate to officially enter a crowded field of Republican presidential contenders, declared and undeclared, several of whom have Texas ties and have overshadowed him in recent months, including Senator Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush, Mr. Perry’s predecessor in the governor’s mansion.
“We will make it through the Obama years,” he told a cheering crowd at a small municipal airport here in Addison, a northern suburb of downtown Dallas. Saying, “It’s time,” he declared in an impassioned speech, ”I am running for the presidency of the United States of America.”
The location had to do with his giant stage prop – a C-130 plane, the type he flew serving in the United States Air Force in the 1970s.
The plane – parked behind the stage and emblazoned with “Perry for President” – illustrated one of the ways Mr. Perry plans to distinguish himself from the other Republican candidates, by emphasizing his service in the military and his support from veterans, several of whom joined him on stage, including Marcus Luttrell, the former Navy SEAL whose memoir inspired the movie “Lone Survivor.”
In his speech, Mr. Perry also sought to separate himself from other Republican contenders by casting himself as a leader who has done the work rather than a politician who talks about doing it, pointing to his handling of natural disasters and crisises at the border and his 14-year tenure as governor of a state with the 12th-largest economy in the world.
“The question of every candidate will be this one: when have you led?” Mr. Perry said. “Leadership is not a speech on the Senate floor. It’s not what you say. It’s what you do. And we will not find the kind of leadership needed to revitalize the country by looking to the political class in Washington.”
But whether Mr. Perry has done enough to repair the damage from his failed run in 2012 and to thrust himself out of the second tier of candidates he finds himself in remains unclear. Even in Texas, Mr. Perry has already lost crucial support to some of his rivals. Steve Munisteri, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, has been heading up Senator Rand Paul’s presidential campaign in Texas. Many of the grass-roots Tea Party activists in Texas have flocked to Mr. Cruz, while some of those in the more mainstream Texas Republican establishment are supporting Mr. Bush, whose son, George P. Bush, is the state’s new land commissioner.
“Activists will be attracted to him and give him a second chance if he can bring some buzz and show the energy to demonstrate he can build a viable effort,” said David M. Carney, a former political consultant to Mr. Perry and a top strategist for his 2012 campaign. “With so many new shiny objects in the race this cycle, this will be the hardest hurdle he will need to climb. Perry provides a robust record of accomplishments that no one can rival,” Mr. Carney said. “The question remains: Can he put the other pieces into play, and has his time passed?”
In some ways, Mr. Perry’s expected entry into the race signals a remarkable political comeback.
His 2012 bid for president was filled with gaffes that became national punch lines. He famously uttered “oops” during a debate after he failed to recall the name of one of three federal agencies he would eliminate if elected president. Shortly before he dropped out of the race, he ended up in fifth place in the Iowa caucuses.
In the years since, Mr. Perry has worked at retooling and sharpening both his image and his political chops, making frequent trips to early voting states, meeting with influential policy experts, attending the World Economic Forum in 2014 in Switzerland and even making two cosmetic changes — donning hipster-style black-rimmed eyeglasses and trading his cowboy boots for black loafers.
“He has focused like a laser beam on the task of running for president in 2016 almost since he dropped out of the race,” said Deirdre Delisi, a former chief of staff to Mr. Perry and the policy director for his 2012 campaign. “He has really benefited from using the time in between the last cycle and this cycle, and getting himself more comfortable to be on the national stage.”
Mr. Perry’s announcement differed sharply from his first. In August 2011, he declared he was running for president in South Carolina, an early primary state, at an annual convention of conservative bloggers in Charleston. On Thursday, the event had a more down-home feel, with a country-music band playing in an airplane hangar decorated with giant American flags and packed with veterans and longtime Texas supporters in baseball caps and cowboy hats.
Mr. Perry stressed those small-town roots in his speech, talking about growing up in Paint Creek, Tex. – “we had an outhouse, and mom bathed us in a No. 2 washtub on the back porch,” he said – and working on his family’s farm. And he appealed to both fiscal and social conservatives, saying that Texas created 1.5 million new jobs during the last seven years of his tenure and describing a laundry list of actions he would take if elected president. They included signing an executive order approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, rescinding any agreement with Iran “that legitimizes their quest to get a nuclear weapon” and, on his first day in office, issuing “an immediate freeze on all pending regulations from the Obama administration.”
Mr. Perry was widely regarded as one of the most influential politicians in the history of Texas, using his bully pulpit, veto pen and thousands of appointees at every level of state bureaucracy to extend the reach of the governor’s office through three four-year terms. Yet after leaving office in January, Mr. Perry has been outshined by some of his more high-profile rivals in terms of fundraising, building a national operation and political buzz. T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oil tycoon and billionaire, is backing Mr. Bush. When Charles G. and David H. Koch, the big-spending conservative donors, identified five candidates they were considering supporting, Mr. Perry was not on the list, but Mr. Bush, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Paul, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida were.
And Mr. Perry has another problem, one that political consultants say has the potential to ruin or at least hurt his campaign: a criminal indictment.
A grand jury in Austin indicted Mr. Perry in August on two felony charges of abusing his official capacity and coercing a public servant, the result of a long-running case involving Mr. Perry’s use of his veto power as governor. Mr. Perry pressured the Democratic district attorney in Austin’s Travis County to step down by threatening to cut off state financing to the anticorruption unit in her office, a move that Mr. Perry’s critics and the special prosecutor in the case, Michael McCrum, have said crossed the line from hardball politics to the criminal act of threatening an elected official.
The district attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, had been arrested on a charge of drunken driving, but she resisted Mr. Perry’s efforts to get her to resign and remained in office. Mr. Perry followed through on his threat by vetoing $7.5 million in state money for the public-corruption unit in her office. Mr. Perry and his lawyers have denied any wrongdoing, saying that the veto was lawful and casting his indictment by a grand jury in a Democratic-dominated city as politically motivated.
As the case continues to drag on in court, both Democrats and Republicans believe it could prevent deep-pocketed donors from contributing to Mr. Perry’s campaign and dampen his attempts to become a front-runner.