FORT WORTH - Texas Gov. Rick Perry kicked off the GOP state convention today, saying it's time for Republicans to join together to oust Democrat Barack Obama from the presidency and move Republican Mitt Romney into the White House.
Welcoming thousands of delegates to the Fort Worth Convention Center for the three-day convention billed as the largest political gathering in the country - and greeted with a standing ovation and thunderous applause - Perry said Tarrant County is "where the conservative cause is the strongest and the voice of the Tea Party is the loudest."
But Perry said he's ready for change in the country.
Perry, who referred to his time last year as a front-runner in the presidential race as "the most exhilarating three hours of my life," said he's tired of Obama's policies - which have brought the country everything from a new health care system to what he called "a federal government at war with the states" - and plans to vote for GOP presumed presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
"If America is to be America again, if we are to get off the mat and on our feet again, if we are to reclaim our birthright of freedom again, we need a president who believes in us again," he said. "Three and a half years, and nearly 100 rounds of golf into his presidency, Barack Obama has exploded the federal debt, passed a failed, budget-busting stimulus package, socialized health care, and provided guns to Mexican drug cartels.
"Admit it, America. 2008 was our national 'oops' moment," Perry said, referring to his gaffe during a presidential debate last year.
Perry revved up the crowd by saying he's so tired "of a federal government at war with the states, with bureaucrats and czars who discard the 10th Amendment and disdain the 2nd Amendment.
"I'm tired of an over-zealous EPA that kills jobs, a Department of Education that tries to subvert local control, and a Department of Justice capable of operations like Fast and Furious," he said. "And for the record, we don't need Eric Holder telling Texas how we can address election fraud."
Despite the cheers Perry drew from the crowd, at one point, he seemed to lose the support of much of the crowd.
"We all know in our hearts that Texas is the laboratory of conservative reform," he said. "We need more strong, conservative Texans in Washington, including my friend and colleague (Lt. Gov.) David Dewhurst."
The sound of boos - possibly the sound of "Cruz," from those supporting former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who faces Dewhurst in a July 31 runoff for the U.S. Senate seat Kay Bailey Hutchison will leave next year - echoed through the convention center's arena.
Perry continued with his speech, drawing cheers and applause when talking about how GOP Texas leaders work on efforts that begin in communities - from creating a Voter ID law to a Defense of Marriage Act and even working to defund Planned Parenthood.
"Your work is not done and neither is mine," he said. "For me, continuing to serve as your governor is the honor of a lifetime.
"I'm not riding off into the sunset. I'm mounting up for the next operation."
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul - a GOP presidential candidate who this week said he won't have enough delegates to claim the party's presidential nomination but his supporters can greatly impact the direction the party heads in the future - will speak this afternoon on party unity.