Texas Gov. Rick Perry Enters 2012 Race

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry shook up the 2012 race today when he made his candidacy official in Charleston, S.C., almost nine months after the Texan vowed he was not interested in pursuing a presidential run.

"I came to South Carolina because I will not sit back and accept the path America is on because a great country requires a better direction because a renewed nation needs a new president," Perry said. "It is time to get America working again and that's why with the support of my family and the unwavering belief of the goodness of America I declare for you today that I'm a candidate for President of the United States."

Perry, the longest-serving governor in the country who has accounted for 42 percent of all jobs created since the recession, maintained his anti-Washington rhetoric throughout his announcment speech, declaring that he will "work everyday to try and make Washington D.C. as inconsequential in your life as I can."

"It's time to believe again in the potential of American enterprise set free from the shackles," Perry said. "The change we seek will never emanate out of Washington D.C., it will come from the windswept praireies of middle America, the farms and the factories across this great land."

Perry announced his candidacy at the RedState Gathering, a convention of more than 300 conservative bloggers, before a backdrop of American flags. Portraits of President Ronald Reagan and President Theodore Roosevelt adorned the room, along with paintings of the Lincoln Memorial, Statue of Liberty and George Washington crossing the Delaware River with troops.

The speech has long been on the governor's calendar, but it wasn't until this week that it turned into a platform to launch a presidential bid.

The Obama campaign was quick to respond to Perry's announcment, saying Perry is "more of the same" in a statement issued immediately after Perry's speech.

"Governor Perry's economic policies are a carbon copy of the economic policies of Washington Republicans. He pledged to support the cut cap and balance plan that would preserve subsidies for oil and gas companies and tax cuts for the wealthiest while ending Medicare as we know it, eroding Social Security, eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs and erasing investments in education and research and development," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in the statement.

By announcing in South Carolina Saturday, the Texas governor is throwing out the conventional political playbook as most of the Republican presidential field focuses on the Ames straw poll in Iowa.

But he won't leave the Hawkeye State completely ignored, as he plans to travel New Hampshire and Iowa by the end of the weekend, rounding out a tour of three key early states in the caucus and primary process.The Texas governor plans to ramp up his fundraising appeals in the coming weeks with the campaign hoping to net $10 million in donations in the opening weeks of his campaign.

Following his announcement, he will meet with state GOP leaders before flying to New Hampshire for a house party hosted by Republican state Rep. Pam Tucker. Tucker was among the delegation of New Hampshire Republicans who met with Perry in Austin late last week.

"Gov. Perry is a very personable individual, does well one-on-one, as well, and in New Hampshire, I think he'll resonate well with voters," Tucker told ABC News.

The Texas governor will travel to Waterloo, Iowa, Sunday to speak at the Lincoln Day Dinner fundraiser held by the Black Hawk County Republican Party, and he'll run into his first fellow candidate on the trail, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who announced Thursday that she, too, will speak at the dinner in her hometown.

Perry's entrance into the 2012 race has been met with fascination by both the media and Republicans dissatisfied with the current Republican field.

Perry boasts a strong economic and job creating record, a message that's resonating with voters this election cycle. The Texas governor has recently polled near the top of presidential picks.

Just one week ago, Perry, a self-described "man of faith," led 30,000 people in a day of prayer and fasting for the country.

"Father, our hearts break for America," Perry said in prayer. "We see fear in the marketplace, we see anger in the halls of government, and as a nation we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us. And for that we cry out for your forgiveness."

Perry has been a long-time opponent of the establishment in Washington and advocate of states' rights, a position that will resonate with Tea Party voters. In his book, "Fed Up!" Perry criticized big government, called for greater freedom for state governments, and blamed Washington politicians for hurting America.

Perry is often compared to President George W. Bush, a fellow Texan governor who ascended to the White House, but Perry has attempted to distance himself from this Bush.

"The idea of 'Just because you're from Texas, you're all alike and you're all cut from the same cloth,' is a bit of a stretch," Perry told the Des Moines Register in July. "The folks that want to make that comparison, they'll figure out pretty quick that, 'Hey, this guy Perry, he's different.'"

"He's not George W. Bush. Rick Perry is nothing like George W. Bush," Paul Burka of Texas Monthly said. "Perry's probably the best electoral production that Texas has produced since LBJ."

Perry, the son of cotton farmers, hails from a small town in west Texas called Paint Creek. Growing up, Perry earned the honor of Eagle Scout and met his future wife, Anita Thigpen, at a piano recital in elementary school. He married her more than 20 years later. Perry and his wife have one son, Griffin, and one daughter, Sydney.

Perry attended Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, where he majored in animal science, was a yell-leader and a member of the Corps of Cadets.

Upon graduation in 1972, Perry was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force and flew C-130 tactical aircraft in the U.S., Middle East and Europe. He was discharged with the rank of captain and returned to West Texas to help on his family ranch in 1977.

After years as a cotton farmer, Perry jumped into politics in 1985 when he entered the state House of Representatives as a conservative Democrat. Perry supported Al Gore's presidential bid in 1988 and even spearheaded his election efforts in the state of Texas.

In 1989, Perry switched parties and became a Republican. The following year he ran and won in the election for agriculture commissioner, a role in which he promoted the sale of Texas farm produce to other states and foreign nations.

After serving two terms as agriculture commissioner, Perry ran for lieutenant governor and became the state's first Republican lieutenant governor since Reconstruction.

Upon George W. Bush's election to the presidency, Perry assumed the Texas governorship in 2000. He has since won three re-elections as governor, even defeating popular Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the primary election in 2010. Perry also serves as the president of the Republican Governor's Association.

Perry will enter the presidential race undefeated, having never lost an election in his three decades of working in government.