Texas Gov. Rick Perry Enters 2012 Race

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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.

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