AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas Governor Rick Perry, a fierce conservative critic of the federal government, changed his stance on Friday and said he will consider seeking the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
“I‘m going to think about it,” Perry told reporters after he signed a bill requiring Texans to show photo identification to vote.
Perry had said repeatedly he would not seek the Republican nomination to challenge President Barack Obama next year, although he has been urged to get in the race by some conservatives unhappy with the current field.
Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, is a steadfast conservative who was an early supporter of the small-government, low-tax Tea Party movement. He has frequently clashed with the federal government and Obama.
Perry accuses the federal government of burdening Americans with taxation, spending and debt. In 2009, Perry caused a nationwide stir when he openly pondered his state’s secession from the United States in the face of Obama’s agenda.
Several high-profile Republicans have decided in recent weeks not to run for president, including Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and businessman Donald Trump.
Perry, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush have been at the top of the wish list for Republicans hoping to lure more big-name candidates into the race.
Perry had responded to recent questions about running by saying he was focused only on the Texas legislative session that ends on Monday. Bush and Christie have said they will not run, but Christie will meet next week with Iowa activists who want him in the race.
Asked on Friday whether he’ll think about running after the session is over, Perry said he would.
“I think about a lot of things,” said Perry, who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
When asked why he changed his mind, he responded: “I didn’t say I was running, did I?”
James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, said Perry would be a viable candidate although he is untested nationally.
“He speaks to a faction of what I’d call conservative Republican consciousness that has been very much on the upswing on the national level,” Henson said.
Perry signed a bill making Texas the 12th U.S. state to require photo identification from voters. Some critics say requiring photo identification would suppress voter turnout, especially of elderly, low-income and minority voters who may be less likely to have a photo ID than others.
The race for the Republican nomination has begun to heat up. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty formally declared his candidacy this week, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney plans to officially join the field next week.
Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, will raise her profile even higher in coming weeks with a bus tour and the Iowa premiere of a documentary film about her.
Reporting by Corrie Maclaggan; Editing by Will Dunham