Texas Gov. Rick Perry has practically turned Washington-bashing into a sport, but he can't seem to stay away from the nation's capital -- or the national stage.
Perry has three trips planned to Washington and its environs through February, along with a jaunt to California for an event honoring former President Ronald Reagan, aides said. Most of the events are drawing other national Republican figures, including a few eyeing the White House in 2012.
But in an interview with The Associated Press this week, Perry said he has no aspirations beyond the Lone Star State. Still, the trips are sure to fuel speculation about his intentions and raise a few eyebrows as the state faces a budget shortfall of at least $15 billion, one of the largest in the country.
The governor said he'll oppose tax increase and hopes to make Texas a model of fiscal responsibility despite fears that the state could soon be facing deep cuts in the public school system and the health care infrastructure.
"I'm not running for president," said Perry, who will be sworn into his record third term as governor next week. "I'm interested in the members of Congress doing what they said they would do and putting this country back into a substantially closer relationship with the Constitution."
Perry will get to deliver that message to GOP members of the U.S. House on Friday, when aides said he'll travel to Baltimore, just outside Washington, to attend a weekend retreat for the new Republican majority.
Also expected to attend are Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, both considered potential contenders for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. All of them -- and virtually every other Republican heavyweight -- will be back in Washington in mid-February to attend the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a huge draw for conservative activists and presidential wannabes.
Perry will join high-profile speakers such as 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and 2008 presidential contenders Mitt Romney and Ron Paul at the meeting, according to a roster of speakers posted online.
Before that trip, Perry is expected in California on Feb. 6 to attend events commemorating what would be Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday, Perry aides said. Gingrich is among those confirmed to attend the star-studded celebration at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley. To close out the month, Perry will be back in Washington for a meeting of the Republican Governor's Association, which he chairs.
All of the trips are being paid for with campaign funds, not state dollars, Perry's office said.
Perry targeted Washington during the 2009 elections, going after U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison during the GOP gubernatorial primary and hounding members of Congress for pork-barrel spending practices that sent debt levels soaring. He also is credited with joining forces with the tea party movement before other national leaders saw it coming.
Less than a week after coasting to an unprecedented third term as governor in the November election, Perry was off to Washington and New York promoting his new book, "Fed Up!" which describes the federal government as financially reckless and out of control while calling for a resurgence of state-based power.
He said he wants to keep spreading that idea beyond Texas. But that's it.
"Am I trying to sell books to try to get ... a groundswell of support that Washington needs to devolve the power back to the states? Yeah, absolutely. I'll use every appropriate means to get that message out," Perry said. "Why do you want to go to Washington, D.C. if you're trying to make it inconsequential?"