(Photo: Reuters / Lee Celano)
A confident Rick Perry called on Republicans to stand proud and stop apologizing for their conservative values.
Addressing hundreds at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans on Saturday, the Texas governor proclaimed, "We need to stop apologizing for celebrating life. We need to stop apologizing for wanting to protect an individual's right to build a business."
"Let's stand up. Let's speak with pride about our morals and our values and redouble our effort to elect more conservative Republicans."
Perry has yet to declare a run for the presidency. He has indicated several times in interviews and public appearances that he was giving it serious thought.
He joined some of the GOP presidential candidates in New Orleans, including former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul (R-Texas) – all of whom blasted Washington for too much spending and too much interfering.
"This administration in Washington ... clearly believes that government is not only the answer to every need but it's the most qualified to make essential decisions for every American in every area," Perry said. "That mix of arrogance and audacity that guides the Obama administration is an affront to every freedom-loving American."
"America's greatness is not found in the size of its government. America's greatness resides in the hearts and the minds of the people," he proclaimed to an energetic crowd.
"Let's stop this American downward spiral."
The Texas governor touted his state's "unmatched job creation," saying the Lone Star State created 47.8 percent of all jobs in America in the last two years.
"That's what happens when conservative leadership ... is willing to take a beating from the liberal left and their friends in the media."
He also boasted that the Texas legislature recently passed a bill protecting the sanctity of life, as women contemplating abortions would be required to have a sonogram.
"When it comes to conservative social issues, it saddens me when sometimes my fellow Republicans duck and cover in the face of pressure from the left," Perry said. "Our loudest opponents on the left are never going to like us so let's quit trying to curry favor with them."
The Southern Republican Leadership Conference conducted a presidential straw poll, in which Ron Paul came out on top with nearly 40 percent of the vote. Perry was not included in the poll.
Most recently, Perry has drawn criticism for an upcoming prayer and fasting event "on behalf of our troubled nation." Scheduled for August, the event, he said, is Christ-centered but open to people of all faiths.