The excitement was palpable as Governor Rick Perry strode into the House chamber just over two years ago to make his State of the State speech.
Months before the four-term Republican governor declared his run for president, Capitol observers were parsing his every phrase and praising his uncanny political intuitions. This was a man who served up defeat to a sitting U.S. senator, was an ace at retail politics and had found a sweet spot with conservatives: Washington-bashing.
"The differences between Texas values and Washington's self-serving games have never been more stark than they are right now. The federal government's efforts to accumulate more power by bribing us with our own tax dollars are simply unacceptable," Perry told a chamber crowded with elected officials. "We must continue to call attention to the essential truth of the 10th Amendment and commit these 28 words to memory: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Washington-bashing, however, would not be enough to carry Perry to victory if he intended to jump into the Republican primary. So he laid out an ambitious agenda of emergency items to be addressed in the first 30 days of the session: voter ID, sanctuary cities, sonograms prior to abortions, a federal balanced-budget amendment and additional eminent domain protections.
In a weak-governor state, Perry was making a strong-governor statement with red-meat GOP voter issues served on the table. He would eventually sign legislation on all his emergency topics, minus sanctuary cities. Whether it helped much was hard to tell. Perry got a drubbing in his election bid.
Two years later, there's still interest in Perry as a presidential candidate. And as he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, he is "indeed" open to the idea of running again. So why is the governor so missing from the Capitol this session when he was so present the last session? It's just a change in strategy, with all his work behind the scenes.
Read more in this week's feature about how Governor Perry has changed tactics this session.