Gov. Rick Perry, making his first public appearance since U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison formally announced a bid to unseat him, portrayed his rival Tuesday as out of step with Texas and too steeped in the ways of Washington.
At a press conference Tuesday, Perry generally defended a record that Hutchison ripped a day earlier, saying pro-business policies he helped put in place have made Texas the "envy of the nation." The governor did not specifically respond to the series of attacks being aired by his opponent.
Instead, Perry more broadly sought to characterize Hutchison as a relative outsider, saying that after 16 years in Washington Hutchison "may not have a grasp" of what's happening in Texas.
"This is going to be Washington vs. Texas," Perry said of his re-election battle. "If Washington-style answers are the solution, my instinct is that Texans are going to say 'thanks, but no thanks."'
The governor, already the longest serving governor in Texas history, is facing the fight of his life with a challenge from the senior U.S. senator. On Monday, Hutchison -- first elected to her seat in 1993 -- kicked off a five-day, 19-city tour to promote her candidacy. She leveled her harshest attack ever on Perry, saying his administration had been marked by arrogance, political games and ruinous economic policies.
It didn't seem to faze Perry, who is just back from a weeklong visit of Israel. The governor was chatty and smiling at a press conference designed to highlight his opposition to the sweeping health care overhaul pushed by the Barack Obama White House.
A few times he nodded his head as a half-dozen doctors in white coats stood beside him. They were gathered to criticize national health care reform plans pending in Congress and endorse a report from a conservative think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, saying the plans would spark economic decline and higher taxes.
Perry and Hutchison are generally united against the health care proposal in Congress. But Hutchison spokesman Joe Pounder said Perry had been busy "grandstanding" on health care while the senator has been fighting the Obama-backed health care plans in Washington.