Long lines of people were formed in various entrances of the Berry Center, an 85,000-seat venue in suburban Houston on Sunday, a few hours before Superbowl XLIV and they weren’t there for the game. It was a campaign rally for Gov. Rick Perry on his bid to be the Republican candidate for the post he’s held for nearly 10 years.
“I think our governor represents what a leader should be like in every other state of the Union,” said Jason Mills, a Houston resident and a Republican.
At least 10,000 people were present at the event in suburban Cypress but the large number of attendees was partly attributed to a friend of influence in the national political stage. Perry received mega-watt support from conservative celebrity Sarah Palin who was also in town for a motivational speech at a business seminar the following day.
“She should run for President in 2012 because she represents what America should be about,” said Amanda, who was clutching Palin’s autobiographical book "Going Rogue," but refused to give out her last name.
Other Republicans of recognizable statewide caliber who spoke on behalf of Perry were Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and State Senator Dan Patrick.
Also in attendance was legendary rocker Ted Nugent who gave a guitar rendition of the Star Spangled Banner bringing cheers from thousands minutes before Perry and Palin made a grand entrance with security detail on a barricaded floor aisle.
Perry spoke first and gave his conservative supporters plenty to be cheerful about including anti-liberal, anti-Washington rhetoric especially when he got ready to introduce Palin to an eager crowd.
“I doubt there is another public figure in our country who gives liberals a bigger case of the hives than our special guest today, at the very mention of her name, the liberals, the progressives, the media elites, they literally foam at the mouth,” said Perry, a former Democrat.
Palin, who was accompanied by her daughter Piper on stage, took the podium to tell the audience the many reasons why Perry should be reelected a third term, while making an allusion to a comment President Barack Obama made while running for office in 2008.
“A lot of us in our states proudly cling to our guns and religion,” she said to people carrying signs like “Perry Palin Power,” "Pro-life for Perry,” “We love Sarah” or “Washington is Broke.”
Palin flew in town warmed up from her paid appearance at the first tea party convention in Nashville the day before.
Perry was a vocal defender of Palin as the vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket alongside Senator John McCain in 2008, despite heavy criticism about her suitability for the role.
With both being darlings of the Tea Party movement, there have been speculations about either Palin or Perry becoming the face of the GOP in the 2012 presidential race in an attempt to make Obama a one-term president.
The former Alaska governor confirmed that “it would be absurd” not to consider it in an interview for Fox News over the weekend, while Texas Monthly’s February edition stated that Perry’s political ambition “it’s not about 2010. It’s about 2012,” though a campaign staffer denied it at the event.
"I didn't hear a lot of substance in there, maybe Senator Hutchison, or [former Mayor] Bill White may be what Texas needs," said Daryn Morell, an independent on the way back to his car after the rally was over.