Three weeks to the day after Governor Rick Perry removed his hat from the (presidential campaign) ring, he tried to reclaim some of the spotlight with a speech to a packed room at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

While Perry mentioned didn’t mention Newt Gingrich (whom he endorsed as he dropped out of the race) or Mitt Romney, the governor did use his speech to urge conservative Republicans not to “settle,” the Los Angeles Times‘ Michael Memoli recounted. Perry said:

We do the American people no great service if we replace the current embodiment of big government with a lukewarm version of the same. What 2012 offers us is the chance to offer a starkly different vision for America. We can’t tinker our way to victory. We’ve got to be bold.

Perry seemed to reprise many of the lines he used on Monday at his Reagan Day speech to the Williamson County Republican Party, including, “Aggies never lose. We just run out of time … So you could say that my presidential campaign just ran out of time,” he said at CPAC, according to the Washington Post‘s David Fahrenthold. (The Right Scoop has video of the full speech.)

The presence of Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain led NPR’s Ari Shapiro to liken this year’s conference to the reunion show at the end of a reality series. ABC News’s Matt Negrin noted that with Perry and Bachmann both drawing cheers with their speeches Thursday, CPAC “seemed to lurch into a time warp.” For many conservatives in the audience, “the blast from the past was a bittersweet glimpse at what could have been had Bachmann and Perry managed to stay in the race,” Negrin wrote.

Now free from the stressful, day-to-day grind of the campaign, these appearances suggest that Perry hopes to burnish his image, with his eye perhaps on another presidential bid in 2016.

“As you say in Texas, you have to get back up on the horse,” Tim Hagle, a political scientist at the University of Iowa, told the Houston Chronicle‘s Richard Dunham. “He couldn’t just sit in Austin and sulk. He should be able to rehabilitate himself enough … to become an elder statesman of the GOP who will be in great demand as a speaker and pundit.”

But, Dunham reports, U.S. Senator John Cornyn thinks Perry should set his sights more locally. Cornyn said:

A little time cures all wounds in politics, and I think the best thing he could do, if I were to give him advice, is just to get back to work governing Texas. That’s stood him in good stead and given him high approval ratings, and I think that’s the best thing he could do.

Perry devoted some time to slamming the Obama administration and its “left-wing, pro-abortion radicals.” In particular, he griped about state’s fight with the feds over the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

“President Obama has invalidated a waiver that provides health care for more than 100,000 women in my state,” Perry said, because the state declines “subsidized abortion.”

The Texas Tribune‘s Emily Ramshaw filled in the background:

The Women’s Health Program is a joint state-federal program that provides well-woman exams, contraception and STD screenings — not abortions — for thousands of poor women in Texas. The majority of them have traditionally occurred at Planned Parenthood clinics.

This year, in an ongoing effort to force Planned Parenthood out of business in Texas, Republican officials asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a waiver — to continue the program but exclude Planned Parenthood from it.

The feds declined, saying Texas’ effort was a violation of the federal Social Security Act, and asked the state to reconsider. They granted Texas a renewal of the program through March to work out an agreement, which has yet to develop.

On Thursday, Perry laid the blame for the hold up squarely on Obama.