Rick Perry officially enters the race

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Texas Governor Rick Perry ended months of speculation and made his candidacy for the presidency of the United States official Saturday.

“It is time to get America working again, and that is why, with the support of my family and unwavering belief in the goodness of America, I declare to you today as a candidate for president of the United States,” the governor said to chants of “PERRY-PERRY-PERRY.”

Speaking before a crowd of more than 300 conservative bloggers and activists at the RedState Gathering in South Carolina, Perry — introduced as the “jobs governor” — told the crowd about his farm upbringing, which he said taught him the importance of hard work and thrift, and his time in the military, which he said gave him an understanding of the greatness of American freedom.

Perry, 61, wasted no time criticizing President Obama’s economic, foreign and immigration policies. He told the crowd that the only path to economic recovery is to give Obama his own pink slip.

“One in six work-eligible Americans cannot find a full-time job. That is not a recovery, that is an economic disaster,” he said, adding that America “cannot afford four more years of [Obama’s] rudderless leadership.”

Perry touted Texas’s record of job creation and low taxes, saying that if it can work in Texas, it can work nationwide.

He was also very critical of the president’s foreign policy agenda.

“Our president has insulted our friends and encouraged our enemies,” Perry said. “We dont need a president who apologizes for America, we need a president who protects and projects those values!”

The newly minted candidate is the longest-serving governor in the country. Throughout his three terms in office, Perry has kept taxes low while overseeing significant job growth in his state — since the beginning of the recession, Texas has accounted for more than 40 percent of the country’s job growth.

While even his opponents have cheered his economic record, Perry is also popular with social conservatives because of his focus on faith and his pro-life and anti-gay-marriage stances.

The announcement shakes up the current field of Republican contenders. Prior to his entry, according to a CNN/ORC International survey, Perry had been polling in second place, just two points behind front-runner Mitt Romney. (Poll: Perry would enter in 2nd place, but only Giuliani leads Obama)

Perry’s official entry comes as the rest of the field is participating in the Ames Straw Poll. Perry’s name is not on the ballot in Ames, but supporters have launched a write-in campaign for the Texas governor.

Shortly before his announcement, Perry activated his campaign website, which has a landing page that stresses his focus: economic recovery and job restoration.

“It’s time to get America working again,” the page reads.

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