ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: After appearing at a series of anti-tax “tea party” rallies across the state, Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday asserted that the anti-Washington fervor among his constituents may at some point leave them pushing to secede from the United States.
Speaking to reporters, Perry, R-Texas, said he saw no reason why Texas should leave the union. But he pointed out that when Texas became a state in 1845, it did so with the understanding that it could end its ties with the U.S., if its constituents so chose.
“There's a lot of different scenarios,” Perry said, according to the Associated Press. “We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot.”
Perry, who became governor after George W. Bush was elected to the White House in 2000, is facing a tough primary challenge in his 2010 reelection race. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, is also running for the seat.
It’s difficult to imagine that talk of seceding from the union being a political winner this side of the Civil War -- or at least this side of the civil-rights movement. In any event, few in Texas or beyond view secession talk as anything more than “Don’t mess with Texas” bluster.
But the comments have made Perry one of the biggest attention-getters in the wake of Wednesday’s protests, an unprecedented series of gatherings for grass-roots fiscal conservatives.
Plus, as former Bush media adviser Mark McKinnon pointed out on ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today, what may sound like a clanker in the rest of the country may not seem odd in the Lone Star State.
“I think he looks really silly everywhere but in Texas. But in Texas, it’s brilliant primary politics, and I guarantee you those Republican primary voters are eatin' that up,” McKinnon said.
McKinnon added that, if Perry beats Hutchison and wins another term, he could be a contender for national office.
“Listen, any governor of Texas or of California or Florida, frankly . . . or New York are always going to be on the list for [president], and if Rick Perry gets reelected he will have been in office potentially for 14 years. So yeah, he's a very serious player,” he said.
Asked about the comments Thursday on a conference call with reporters, some of Perry’s fellow GOP governors echoed the concerns he raised.
“What he was talking about was 10th Amendment and very legitimate issues in the way that the federal government seems to be jamming a lot of states with a number of different mandates,” said Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C. “I think every different governor could come up with their different story of a federal mandate that is not only obtrusive by its very nature but what in some ways thwarts what would be a best effort on the ground to better economy, better competitiveness, etc.”
Said Haley Barbour, R-Miss.: “When the federal government fires the president of General Motors and half the board of directors, I would say they are going to some new extremes. I don't blame Rick for talking about the 10th Amendment.”
The Constitution’s 10th Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
ABC News' Teddy Davis and Ferdous Al-Faruque contributed to this report.