ROUND ROCK, Texas - Back on his home turf in the Lone Star State in his first public appearance since leaving the presidential race, Texas Gov. Rick Perry vowed he wouldn't fade away into obscurity now that he's off the presidential campaign trail and returning to his duties as governor.
"I'm not slipping off in to the sunset. I'm not riding off into the West. We've got plenty of work to do right here in the state of Texas," said Perry at a hotel ballroom just north of Austin, "and I've got plenty of fight left in this 61-year-old body."
Speaking before the Williamson County GOP Dinner, Perry, who dropped out of the race in mid-January, admitted his withdrawal from presidential campaign symbolized a new frontier as the Texas governor suffered the first defeat of his 28-year political career.
"Aggies have a really interesting way of admitting defeat," said Perry, an alumnus of Texas A&M. "We've never been outscored. We just ran out of time, and the fact is I'm really not used to running out of time but I wouldn't trade this experience for anything in the world."
Eighteen days after he declared an end to his candidacy, Perry, accompanied by his wife, Anita, was at ease as he addressed the crowd in a sort of "welcome home" speech, saying, "I don't know what y'all have been doing for the last six months, but I think you kind of know what I've been up to."
Perry never referenced the candidate he is now backing in the 2012 race - Newt Gingrich. But instead, the Texas governor continued his attacks on President Obama, repeating many of the criticisms he launched against the president during his five months on the campaign trail - challenging the Obama administration's rejection of the XL oil pipeline, questioning the pro-choice agenda he's adopted, and lambasting his other priorities.
"We cannot afford four more years of this misguided socialist policies from President Obama and his administration," said Perry.
The Texas governor was introduced by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is pursuing a bid for the U.S. Senate and affectionately admitted Perry has a better head of hair than he does.
"He's back and he's stronger," said Dewhurst to applause from the Republican crowd.
Perry's jaunt onto the national stage will continue later this week when he addresses CPAC in Washington, D.C.
As he rounded out his speech, Perry used an old adage from the campaign trail, one he introduced on the national stage at the historic Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, S.C., on the August afternoon when he launched his presidential bid.
"I'll continue to work to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential as I can in your life," said Perry to a roomful of applause before stepping off stage. "And by definition, that means getting rid of Obama this November. That's how we make Washington as inconsequential in your lives as we can."