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Rick Perry set to enter White House race

ADDISON, Texas - To perhaps no one's surprise, former Texas Governor Rick Perry will make it official Thursday. He will once again toss his hat into the race for the White House.

Just after midnight, the campaign released a video showing Perry running for office.

It will be his second attempt in the Republican primary. Even before he left office this past January, Perry had made multiple visits to the key early states in the nomination process: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. He's already planned events in Iowa this weekend.

When he kicks off his campaign at the Addison Airport Thursday morning, Texas' longest-serving governor will be starting from a very different position than when he first entered the presidential race in August 2011. Polls now show Perry's approval ratings in the low single digits in a very crowded field of declared and potential Republican candidates.

Nearly four years ago, the former Governor flew to South Carolina to announce his candidacy before Red State, a group of conservative bloggers.

At the time, Perry raced to the top of the polls in what was a much smaller group of challengers.

Now, there are as many as 15 to 16 Republicans either running for President or actively considering it: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former New York Gov. George Pataki, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov, Bobby Jindal, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and developer Donald Trump.

In what political analysts believe is one of Perry's main campaign themes, he will be joined on stage in Addison by various veterans and their spouses, including Taya Kyle, widow of "American Sniper" Chris Kyle, and retired U.S. Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell.

Perry is one of only two Republican candidates who served in the military. He is a retired Air Force pilot. Senator Graham also served in uniform.

In an email released by the campaign Wednesday, Luttrell said of Perry, "His character is solid and I would take a bullet for him or Anita, Perry's wife, any day."

Taya Kyle said in a campaign statement, "I'll proudly stand with one of the great leaders this state and country have ever produced: Rick Perry."

During a one-on-one interview with Perry at his Capitol office just before he left office, I asked him how he would position himself in what could be a crowded field of Republicans, and what it would take for a Republican to win the primary, and ultimately the general election. Texas' booming economy was clearly on his mind.

"Texas is a big place; the United States is a big place," Perry told me. "But I think the message is clear. Who is it that goes out there and shares a positive economic vision in particular? Who has the experience level, the background, who can really get this country back on track? I think the candidate who's able to do that and the American people believe that these folks have the experience to make that happen, not only do they win the primary, I think they win the general election going away."

Political analysts believe the former governor may have too much ground to make up from his failed campaign in 2012, when he left the race just before the South Carolina primary. It was Perry's much publicized "oops" moment during a televised debate months earlier that did him in. He had forgotten a third government agency he planned to shut down if elected president.

The question now is -- will voters give him a second chance - especially with such a large number of candidates either running or poised to run against him.

To try to win back support nationally, Perry said during the January interview that he has studied numerous issues.

"Preparation is really important to run for the presidency," he said at the time. "I've spent the last 22 months in a very deep effort to be prepared whether it's domestic policy, foreign policy, monetary policy and I feel comfortable with the work we have done and I think it's been reflective and I think people have seen this is a very focused and disciplined individual."

While Perry may be a more prepared candidate, he still faces another challenge: his indictment on abuse of power charges by a Travis County grand jury and his prosecution by a specially-appointed state prosecutor.

So far, the former governor and his team of attorneys have been unsuccessful in having the case thrown out. In January, Perry sought to minimize the impact the charges would have on his campaign.

"It'll play itself out," Perry said then. "I have great faith in the system and that it will end in an appropriate way. I think Americans are pretty astute, and they will see this for what it is."

The former Texas governor has lost some of his supporters and financial backers from his 2012 run, but he still has many loyal followers and donors in Texas. Even those who are supporting other candidates this time around say if Perry survives the primaries past their first choice, they would have no problem backing him again.

But a lot has to happen before then.

Jack Fink is a reporter for CBS station KTVT-TV in Dallas

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