Gov. Rick Perry stirred speculation Tuesday that he would seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, championing his state's economy before a packed GOP gathering in New York and telling a television interviewer he would engage in a "thought process" before deciding whether to join the field.
Perry traveled to New York to address the Lincoln Dinner, an annual fundraising event for the New York GOP. He replaced celebrity real estate developer Donald Trump, who cancelled his appearance after deciding against a presidential bid.
"I find it ironic to be filling in for Donald Trump tonight," Perry said. "He's known for saying `You're fired.' We're known for saying `You're hired.' That's what we do in Texas."
Perry, a three-term governor popular with tea party activists, used the speech to touch on several of his longstanding state campaign themes. He promoted his state's jobs record and economic climate, which he said were a reflection of conservative principles. He urged Republicans to stand firm in opposition to abortion rights and criticized the federal government for excessive regulation and interfering in states' decisions.
"Washington isn't supposed to be the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-spending Oz, pulling the levers behind the curtain while limiting the freedom of our citizens. Instead, the states are supposed to lead the way," he said.
Earlier, Perry told Fox News that was still considering a presidential bid and didn't have to jump into the field yet.
"We have some time," he said. "I'm not sure you have to make a decision in a month."
Perry's closest advisers say he has no intention of running, but last month he said he was "going to think about it."
Perry would bring conservative bona fides, a proven fundraising record and a fresh voice to a field in which many conservatives are looking for an alternative to front-runner Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor is making his second bid for the GOP nomination.
Perry didn't address the presidential speculation directly at the New York gathering. But he urged supporters to send a text message to his political team to receive updates on his efforts to battle federal incursion into state activities.
Perry was joined in New York by his wife, Anita, and by his longtime political adviser, Dave Carney, who recently resigned from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign.
Perry, the Republican Governors Association chairman, is doing several political events around the country this week. He is attending a private RGA event in North Carolina on Wednesday and will travel to New Orleans for the Republican Leadership Conference on Saturday. He is scheduled to go to St. Louis for another RGA event next week.
On Fox News, Perry took a swipe at the sexting scandal rocking congressional Democrats in which Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York sent lewd photos of himself and messages to several women.
Asked if Weiner should resign, Perry called him a "sick fella who made some really bad decisions."
Perry said politicians and public officials should be held to higher standards than others and that if he were elected president and one of his Cabinet members did the same thing, he would "most likely" ask that person to resign.
"We have moral rules we live with every day. We have rules of conduct every day," he said. "It's like that definition of pornography: I know it when I see it."
Perry also was asked whether Republicans should reach out to Hispanics on immigration enforcement issues.
"I think the Hispanic population in the country is no different from the Anglo population or the Asian population," he said. "They want to live in a state where they can be free from overtaxation (and) overlitigation. They want to be able to have good schools for their kids and have a wide-open future. That's what the Republican Party is all about."
Associated Press writers April Castro and Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.