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Rick Perry makes high-profile call for prayer as he weighs White House run

August 05, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the 28th annual National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference in San Antonio.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during the 28th annual National Assn. of Latino… (Darren Abate / Associated…)

One week before the first major test of the 2012 campaign, a Republican heavyweight who for now stands on the sidelines is making an appeal of a different sort.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be under the spotlight Saturday as he hosts "The Response: A call to prayer for a nation in crisis."

"There is hope for America. It lies in heaven, and we will find it on our knees," Perry writes on the website for the event.

Perry is hosting the gathering along with the American Family Assn. Organizers this week said that "several thousand people" have registered to attend the event at Houston's Reliant Stadium, capacity 71,500. Another thousand churches and individuals have indicated they will participate remotely, airing a simulcast in their hometowns.

The all-day event begins at 10 a.m. local time, with a program that includes spiritual leaders from across the country. According to the Houston Chronicle, Perry himself will make only brief remarks, read from Scripture, and offer a prayer during the seven-hour program.

Perry, Texas' governor for more than a decade, had invited other state leaders to join him. Just one RSVP'd yes -- Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Two others -- Paul LePage of Maine and Sean Parnell of Alaska, declared Saturday a statewide day of prayer in their states.

It's not meant to be a political event. But Perry has of late taken some concrete steps toward a run for the presidency, and the timing of the event is not lost on political observers.

"I do think he's running. I think that's very clear. He's putting all of the building blocks in place," Sen. Kay Baily Hutchison, a fellow Texas Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Perry in the 2010 governor race, told MSNBC Friday.

The event is notable given how religion and social issues have been otherwise sidelined in the race for the GOP nomination. The economy and jobs, and the proper size and scope of the federal government, have been the main flash points.

In a recent interview with the Des Moines Register, Perry said that running for president "is what I've been called to do," and "what America needs."

He later downplayed the notion that the calling he referred to was of the heavenly variety.

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