Perry gets standing ovation at national convention

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Former Governor Perry back on national stage, speaks to conservatives at CPAC (KTRK)

Former Governor Rick Perry took the stage Friday morning and got straight to his message.

"Here's the simple truth about our foreign policy," he told the crowd,which gave him a standing ovation as he entered, "Our allies doubt us and our adversaries are all too willing to test us."

Perry is reintroducing himself to the national stage in his first big speech since he left the Governor's Mansion he occupied in Texas for fourteen years. He knew his audience.

"These are conservative Republican voters by and large," he told Eyewitness News Anchor Tom Abrahams before his twenty minute speech. "So we need to remind people what we've done in the state of Texas, we need to remind people about the great economic climate that's been created in the state of Texas."

Perry, however, was not the only candidates to focus on foreign policy. Nearly every one of the more than dozen potential presidential candidate who spoke at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference placed national security at the top of their agenda. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said he wasn't surprised.

"Look," he explained, "I think the president's main responsibility is the defense of the country. There are a lot of important issues that are going to be debated in the 2016 cycle. but none as important as defense."

It was also the first thing mentioned by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the perceived front runner some 11 months before the primary season begins. But his message was focused more on convincing the partisan crowd he is one of them.

"Obviously there are a lot of conservatives in this room," he told the largest crowd of the three day convention. "And this is why it's such a spectacular gathering. There are a lot of other conservatives that haven't been asked. They don't know that they're conservative."

But Bush, whose father and brother both served as president, may face an uphill battle among the right wing of the party, some of whom believe he is too moderate to galvanize Republican voters and win back the White House in 2016.

The chair of the American Conservative Union Foundation, which hosts CPAC, says it will take a true conservative to win the general election.

"I think we need to unify this party," she said, "because in the last two elections we've left too many of our own votes on the table."

Celebrity businessman Donald Trump, who told a crowd at a meet and greet session his potential candidacy is no joke, said being conservative will be important. "No, I don't think so," he said when asked if a moderate could win the nomination.

It is, of course, way too early to know which of the potential candidates here will gain enough money and momentum to seriously challenge for the nomination. But CPAC and its influence, has proven an enormous sounding board for those who throw their hats into what looks to be an incredibly crowded ring.
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