Live

Watch CBSN Live

Five things to know about Rick Perry

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry kicks off his second bid for the White House with a rally in Dallas Thursday.

Perry has been a fixture on the national stage for some time: he became governor of Texas when his predecessor, George W. Bush, was elected president in 2000, and he served for a record 14 years. Between 2010 and 2011, he also chaired the Republican Governor's Association.

More 2016 candidates enter the field

He previously ran for president in 2012, was initially considered to be a strong contender for the nomination, but he eventually dropped out when his momentum waned. Perry's fourth term as governor ended earlier this year, and since then, he's maintained a busy travel schedule, speaking to conservative gatherings and voters in early primary and caucus states to keep his name in the mix.

When he formally enters the race, he'll join a crowded field -- nine Republicans have declared 2016 candidacies, and at least seven more are eyeing the race. His early polling numbers show ample room for improvement - a Quinnipiac poll last month found him at one percent among GOP primary voters nationwide, for example.

But campaign pros say Perry will bring too many assets to the race to ignore, including proven fundraising chops, a strong conservative gubernatorial record, and a savvy eye for retail politics that could serve him well on the stump. He's also broadly liked within his party: a CBS News survey in May found that 39 percent of Republicans would consider supporting him for the GOP nomination, while 25 percent would not.

Here are five things you need to know about Rick Perry:

His 2012 bid didn't just falter - it imploded

Perhaps the biggest handicap facing Rick Perry's 2016 bid is the memory of his 2012 bid, which began with a bang and ended with an "oops."

Perry jumped into the race in August 2011, long after many of his rivals had already declared. He posted strong early fundraising numbers and even vaulted to the head of the pack in some national surveys. But a number of awkward appearances on the campaign trail and the debate stage quickly undermined Perry's momentum.

"I thought he was extremely well positioned to win that nomination," University of Texas Professor Daron Shaw told CBS News in April. "He just completely blew it."

There was the time he implied then-Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke would be treated "pretty ugly" in Texas because of his loose monetary policies. There was also the unusual speech he gave in New Hampshire in November 2011 that led to questions about whether he was intoxicated (which he denied.)

But most memorably, there was the November 2011 debate during which Perry failed to recall the third of three Cabinet departments he proposed closing. After a painful, extended period of bumbling, he ultimately offered a sad "oops" and a shrug in place of an answer.

Perry has chalked up his ill-fated 2012 bid to the lack of preparation his hasty entrance afforded him and to an experimental back surgery he underwent just weeks before hitting the campaign trail.

"There were two issues with me in 2011. One is I wasn't healthy...You know all the health stories -- it was what it was," Perry told NPR last month. "The other was in preparation and just spending the time on all the issues that are important."

He's said he's well rested and in fighting shape for 2016, but some analysts believe he'll have trouble shaking the ghost of 2012.

"He flamed out so spectacularly," GOP strategist John Feehery told CBS News. "Sometimes you have a pitcher who's on the disabled list, and they come off the DL, and their arm just is not the same. That's the big question facing Perry: can he still get the fastball going?"

He's under indictment

Last August, less than half a year before leaving office, Perry was indicted by a grand jury for abuse of power. The indictment alleged that Perry broke the law by publicly promising to veto $7.5 million for the public integrity unit in Travis County if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg - who pleaded guilty to drunk driving in 2013 - did not step down.

Perry, who vetoed the funding as promised, has brushed off the charge that he abused the power of his office.

Texas Gov. Perry turns himself in, vows to fight

"The public had lost confidence in [Lehmberg], and I did what every governor has done for decades, which is make a decision on whether or not it was in the proper use of state money to go to that agency, and I vetoed it. That's what the rule of law is really about," he told Fox News last year. "I stood up for the rule of law in the state of Texas, and if I had to do it again, I would make exactly the same decision."

Perry's opponents have said it was the governor's public threat - not his veto - that crossed a line.

"We believe he had the right to veto it," Craig McDonald, the director of Texas for Public Justice, told CNN. "It was about the intimidation before the veto. It was about him using the veto as a coercion tactic to get her to do something she didn't want to do, which was quit her job."

Still, analysts across the political spectrum have expressed doubts about the case against Perry. David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Obama, called the indictment "pretty sketchy" on Twitter, and Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat, told conservative website Newsmax that "everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment."

Most political observers expect the indictment to be a non-issue in 2016, but it's not going away just yet: in January, a district judge in San Antonio denied Perry's request to dismiss the case against him.

He's Texas' longest serving governor

As noted before, Perry was ushered into the Texas governor's office after his predecessor, George W. Bush, was elected president in 2000. But he wasn't a mere placeholder -- he went on to win reelection three times, in 2002, 2006, and 2010, even fending off a primary challenge in his last race. He held the job for 14 years, becoming the longest-serving Texas governor in history, and he put an indelible stamp on the state in the process.

Perry is fond of bragging on his state's record of creating jobs when he was governor. "Since I was governor, starting in December in 2000 through January 2015, my home state created over a third of all jobs created in America," he said Wednesday at the Florida Gov. Rick Scott's Economic Growth Summit. "From the end of 2007 thru 2014, Texas created 1.5 million jobs. During that same period of time, collectively, 49 other states lost 400,000 jobs. That is a stunning piece of data."

He's also noted the major companies that expanded operations in Texas during his tenure, arguing his push for low taxes and predictable regulations drew commercial activity to the state. In recent years, companies like Toyota, Apple, Samsung, Hewlett Packard, and others have increased their footprint in Texas, thanks partly to business incentives offered by the state government.

As governor, Perry quarterbacked an ambitious agenda, overseeing an overhaul of teacher tenure laws, tort reform, regulatory reform, higher education reform, tax reductions, and anti-abortion legislation. Some nods to centrism notwithstanding - notably on immigration enforcement and mandatory vaccinations - it was on the whole a very conservative record.

"Texas did very well compared to the rest of the country during the recession," said Shaw. "Some other 2016 candidates...I don't think can quite match that record."

"Texas is really the model for conservatism in the country, and Perry deserves credit for that," Texas-based GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak told CBS News. "He was the strongest pro-life governor in the country, didn't raise taxes once, really focused on growing the economy. It's hard to find someone who has more executive experience - and a stronger record of success with that executive experience - than Perry."

On the issue of immigration, Gov. Rick Perry has been both more aggressive - he sent national guard troops to the southern border in 2014 to stanch the flow of Central American immigrants into the U.S. - and more liberal than many of his opponents. Perry also signed the Texas Dream Act to give undocumented children lower in-state tuition rates. At a debate in 2011, Mitt Romney criticized him for it, and in response, Perry told Romney, "If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society."

He's one of two GOP candidates with a military background

When Perry graduated from Texas A&M University in 1972, he was commissioned as an officer with the United States Air Force. He completed pilot training in 1974 and was assigned to the 772nd Tactical Airlift Squadron, which rotated him through postings in England, Germany and elsewhere.

In 1974, according to the New York Times, he flew cargo planes as part of a State Department drought relief effort in sub-Saharan Africa. Two years later, he helped with earthquake relief in Guatemala. He achieved the rank of Captain before he left the Air Force in 1977.

His experience in the military, Perry told the Washington Post earlier this year, was an enlightening one.

Rick Perry: ISIS "may have" crossed southern border into U.S.

"I'd been all over the world between 1974 and 1977," he said. "I lived in Saudi Arabia for six weeks in 1975. I really had a maturation process when I saw the connection between how people lived and their government."

It's also an experience he's eager to brandish on the campaign trail to underscore a hawkish message. "As an individual who wore the uniform of this country back in the early 70s, it grieves me to watch the hollowing out of our military today," he said Wednesday in Florida. "You realize that we have the smallest army, personnel wise, that we've had since 1940? ...I'm really concerned about what's happening to our military."

The political benefits of Perry's military background are apparent. It's one of the few elements that helps broaden his resume beyond the governor's mansion into foreign policy and national security. It also helps set him apart from the rest of the field, as he's one of only two candidates in the GOP's 2016 bullpen who have worn the uniform. (The other is South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former colonel in the Air Force Reserves who retired from the military earlier this month when he declared his presidential bid.)

He endorsed Al Gore for president in 1988

Given the strident brand of conservatism he champions today, it might surprise some observers to learn that Perry actually began his political career as a Democrat in Texas.

He was elected as a Democratic state representative in 1984, serving three terms as a member of the Texas legislature. In 1988, he even served as the Texas chairman of then-Tennessee Sen. Al Gore's presidential bid.

Rick Perry: Homosexuality similar to alcoholism

"Al Gore, from my perspective at that particular point in time, was the most conservative of the Democrats," he told Fox News by way of explanation in 2011. "I still thought that there was a place for conservative Democrats in the Democrat party."

Perry switched to the Republican Party in 1990 as he was preparing to run for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, and he's been a member of the GOP ever since. But his time as a Democrat has still, on occasion, provided fodder for opponents hoping to put a chink in his armor.

Former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, one of Perry's 2012 competitors for the GOP nomination, ran an ad in 2011 reminding voters about Perry's past association with Gore.

"Al Gore found a cheerleader in Texas named Rick Perry," the ad's narrator intones. "Rick Perry helped lead Al Gore's campaign to undo the Reagan revolution, fighting to elect Al Gore president of the United States."

Perry, for his part, does not mince words when asked about his past ties to Gore.

"I certainly got religion. I think he's gone to hell," Perry said in 2009 of the former vice president, according to the Dallas Morning News.

View CBS News In