DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Texas Gov. Rick Perry returned to Iowa Thursday for a visit he said was focused on helping the state's Republican governor seek re-election — and not on a potential 2016 presidential bid of his own.
Perry, whose 2012 Republican campaign for president quickly fizzled out, came to the leadoff caucus state for two days of events in the Des Moines suburbs and in Davenport. After he was interviewed for a public affairs show on Iowa Public Television on Thursday, Perry told reporters he had made no decisions about whether to run for president in 2016.
"It's a long way down the road," Perry said of the 2016 presidential campaign. "I'm here to help Gov. Terry Branstad."
Branstad, who is running for his sixth term in office, is heavily favored to win this year against his likely Democratic opponent, state Sen. Jack Hatch of Des Moines. Branstad already has millions in the bank, a sizeable campaign organization and strong approval ratings.
Perry last visited Iowa in November. On Thursday he was scheduled to meet with Republican activists at a GOP campaign office in Urbandale. On Friday, he will meet with about a dozen business leaders in Davenport. That event is sponsored by Americans For Prosperity, a group backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
Elected Texas governor in 2000, Perry, 63, is not seeking re-election next year. He said he did not expect to make any decision about running for president until 2015.
During the lengthy Iowa Public Television interview, Perry expressed his dissatisfaction over a federal judge in Texas declaring a same-sex marriage ban in deeply conservative Texas unconstitutional. He also questioned whether the federal government should be setting a minimum wage. Perry repeatedly said that states should be making policy decisions, not the federal government.
"We all believe that the answers are not emanating from Washington, D.C., today," Perry said. "I don't think there are a lot of governors running on the idea: 'Elect me and we will do what Washington tells us to do.'"
Asked about how he was different from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican who is also considered a 2016 presidential prospect, Perry said he'd leave direct comparisons to others, though he noted they have different jobs.
"A U.S. Senator and a governor are different," Perry said. "They're different in their function. A governor has to get things done. We have to work with members of both political parties. United States Senators talk a lot."
Perry entered the 2012 presidential race with much fanfare, but quickly stumbled after his relatively late entrance into the race. He suffered from shaky debate performances, including an infamous "oops" moment when he couldn't recall one of the three federal agencies he had promised to eliminate as president. Perry finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses in early 2012 and quit the race two weeks later.
Perry appears to be spending more time testing the waters in Iowa before making any decisions. Will Rogers, chairman of the Polk County Republicans, said Perry was making the right moves if he is considering a 2016 run.
"I think it's a sound strategy that he comes to Iowa and spends time in central Iowa, meeting people and making connections," said Rogers, who supported Newt Gingrich in 2012. "Having the ability to come to Iowa early on and put some (time in) will be beneficial with caucusgoers later."