AUSTIN Gov. Rick Perry on Monday highlighted themes that he would likely unleash in a campaign against President Barack Obama but offered no firm clues on when or if he plans to climb into a race for the White House.In what was widely interpreted as his strongest indication yet that he is moving toward a presidential run, Perry was quoted in The Des Moines Register over the weekend as saying, "Im getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what Ive been called to do. This is what America needs."But he was less definitive when asked about the comments Monday during a question-and-answer session with Texas reporters following a ceremonial bill-signing in the state Capitol."Were going through a thoughtful, steady process of making a decision and when we make that decision, well let you all know," Perry said, without elaborating on a possible timetable. He said he would likely call a "lengthy press conference" to detail his decision.Asked about the suggestion that God may be calling him to enter the race, Perry said that his religious faith "absolutely" helps guide him in his decision-making. But he also said that many of the calls are of a more secular nature."Theres a lot of different ways to be called, " Perry said. "My mother may call me for dinner. ... My friends may call me for something.""There are people calling from all across this country, in to either me directly or to people that they know, and saying, 'Man we wish you would consider doing this,' " the governor added.Republican National Committeeman Bill Crocker, an Austin attorney who has been encouraging Perry to enter the race, said he believes "the odds are that he will run."But, Crocker acknowledged, Perry is probably "the only one who knows what hes ultimately going to do."Perry appeared at public events Monday that offered him the opportunity to bash the federal government and President Obamas Democratic administration.Border securityAppearing before the Texas Municipal Police Associations annual conference, Perry said Washington has ignored his call to toughen security along the Texas-Mexico border, saying that Obamas decision last year to dispatch 286 National Guard troops last year was "grossly inadequate."Perry reiterated his request for an additional 3,000 Border Patrol agents and an immediate deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to help fortify the border against potential spill-over violence from Mexicos drug wars."In ceremonially signing a Medicaid cost-containment law sponsored by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, Perry also took a swipe at the presidents federal health care law that Perry and other Republicans have derisively labeled as "ObamaCare."Perry called the law a blatant example of federal overreach and said it will cost Texas more than $27 billion over 10 years to expand Medicaid, beginning in 2014.Prayer meetingPerry said he hopes to fill Houstons Reliant Stadium with a Christian prayer meeting that he has called for Aug 6.The event, called The Response, has generated controversy over criticism that the American Family Association, which is hosting the event, has made disparaging remarks about gays and Muslims.Asked about the criticism, Perry said that he appreciates the groups support but that it doesnt mean he endorses all the groups positions.
Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegrams Austin Bureau chief.