DES MOINES - Gov. Rick Perry of Texas credited Chris Christie for his re-election in New Jersey, but he pointedly questioned whether the 22-point victory by Christie held any greater meaning for the Republican Party.
"Is a conservative in New Jersey a conservative in the rest of the country?" Perry said in an interview with "This Week." "We'll have that discussion at the appropriate time."
As he made his first visit back to Iowa since the 2012 presidential race, Perry left the door open to another presidential bid. He said he believed voters would give him an opportunity to make a second impression, if he decided to run again, even though his first campaign fizzled amid a series of high-profile gaffes.
"Second chances are what America has always been about," Perry said.
In a wide-ranging interview here, during a two-day visit to Iowa, Perry said the divisions among Republicans have been healthy for the party. But he said it was time for the establishment and tea party wings to rally around at least one shared goal: supporting strong candidates who can win.
"If you can't win elections, you can't govern," Perry said. "So winning an election is really important."
The strength of the Republican Party is rooted in governor's offices across the country, Perry said, rather than in Washington. While he said he enjoyed listening to his fellow Texas Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz, lead a 21-hour speech on the Senate floor in September against President Obama's health care law, he questioned the wisdom of the government shutdown. He said it took attention away from the problems in the Affordable Care Act.
"It would have been wiser for us to have laid the wood to the president, so to speak," Perry said, lapsing into a Texas euphemism. "You know, call him out on this."
But Perry reserved his sharpest criticism for Obama, particularly the error-riddled implementation of the nation's new health care law. He said he did not believe the president's apology last week was sufficient.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Polk County Republican Party fall fundraiser dinner at the Embassy Suites in …
"I don't think that's even close to enough," Perry said. "He needs to stand up in front of the American people and say, you know what? I perpetuated a fraud on you."
The president visited Texas last week, urging Perry to accept federal financing to expand the state's Medicaid program to cover more uninsured people. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured Americans in the country.
"For him to come into the state of Texas and say you all should join up in a broken system is a pretty hollow statement," Perry said. "The fact is that people in the state of Texas are smart enough to know they do not want to participate in a program that has every bit as big a chance of getting to the shore as the Titanic did."
Confident and upbeat, Perry seemed to revel in the early speculation about his political future. He directly confronted the biggest gaffe of his presidential candidacy, the moment he struggled during a televised debate to name three federal agencies he would abolish if elected. He ultimately threw up his hands and declared, "Oops!"
"It's one of those things that happened," Perry said. "You make as well, you know, poke a little fun at it."
For the next year, Perry said his chief priority was helping Republican governors and other candidates win their midterm election races. Only then, he said, would he decide whether his presidential ambitions are still burning.
"I think history tells you that for the Republican side anyway," Perry said, "nominees have all had to run more than once."
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