The question got a lot of play on Fox News after Perry gave a rousing speech to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans on Friday. On Fox, Perry said, “My name is not on the straw poll. I have no interest in the presidential election personally.” This was a tactical — and tactful — response, since Perry still has to get through a competitive governor’s race before he can focus on a spot on the national ticket. The reason I have been convinced for quite a while that he is running for president is that he is doing the things that presidential candidates do — the speech in New Orleans being one example, showing up on Fox being another. His speech to the SRLC was for national consumption. He came on stage and immediately assumed the Aggie yell leader persona: “Hel-LOW, Lou-WEEZE-EE-ANNA.” He spoke for a few moments about five years having passed since the double whammy of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and about accepting storm refugees in Texas. Then he fell strangely silent and pulled out his cell phone. “I want to make sure it’s off,” he said. “While I have this out, get your phones out and type in the words FIRED UP and text it to 95613.” He does this bit with the cell phone wherever he speaks. The first time I saw him do it was at his speech to the realtors last September. Then, “You do that and we’ll keep you in tune about how you can continue to fight about what is going on in Washington, D.C.” You do see what he is doing, don’t you? He is building a national database of names. I still don’t get the long, poignant pauses. Has he lost his place in his speech? I don’t think too many things happen accidentally when Perry is around. I think he was trying to convey that he was so emotional that he was overcome by what was happening to America. He resumed: “The Republican party lost its way around 2000.” (This was a deliberate effort to distance himself from the Texan who was elected president in 2000.) “Republicans got frustrated. We elected men and women with an R behind their names, and we couldn’t tell whether they were Republicans or Democrats. That’s what happened to the party.” This got a huge roar. Perry has pushed the Republican party in Texas far to the right, and now he wants to do it nationally. He is making himself the enforcer, the person who is calling out the Republicans who lost the Congress in 2006. This won’t win him any friends on Capitol Hill — Republican members of Congress have already complained about Perry’s anti-Washington ads, when they were collateral damage of attacks on Hutchison — but it is popular among the rank and file. “The federal government used to be about having a strong military, securing our borders, and delivering the mail on time. Until it gets those three right, it should LEAVE EVERYTHING ELSE ALONE!” “The Tenth Amendment says the federal government ought to be an agent for the states, not the other way around.” (I have never heard more nonsense about the Constitution than I have in recent days. Up in Oklahoma, lawmakers are trying to form a state militia, saying that the Second Amendment was designed to allow the states to resist intrusions by the federal government. Totally nuts. As for the Tenth Amendment, it says nothing about the federal government being the agent for the states, as Perry claims. It says that any power is not granted to the federal government can be exercised by the states: “The powers not delegated to United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, and to the people.” The Supremacy Clause and the Civil War settled the issue of whether the federal government was the agent of the states.) Then Perry launched his standard speech about Texas’s fiscal condition, starting with 2003, when there was a $10 billion deficit. He didn’t raise taxes, he cut the budget. He stated the four principles he followed: Don’t spend all the money, have a tax system that is fair, don’t allow frivolous lawsuits, hold public schools accountable. Then, GET OUT THE WAY, GOVERNMENT, AND LET THE PRIVATE SECTOR DO WHAT IT DOES BEST.” Another poignant pause followed the applause. … “If you have one wish [pause], mine would be a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.” Then he quickly wrapped it up and signed off. He’s running … if not for president, then for vice president.