Rick Perry made no mention of Mitt Romney, the current delegate leader in the GOP nomination fight, in his remarks to CPAC attendees Thursday afternoon. Nor did he express further support for the man he endorsed for president after ending his own bid -- Newt Gingrich.
But the Texas governor did give voice to the conservative activists who have yet to coalesce around a single candidate by imploring like-minded Republicans not to "settle" in the presidential race.
"We do the American people no great service if we replace the current embodiment of big government with a lukewarm version of the same," Perry said. "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 gave a well-received speech here in 2011, one that fueled interest in him as a potential presidential candidate. He did not enter for another six months, however, and that slow start and a number of gaffes doomed his candidacy.
"Aggies never lose. We just run out of time. So you can say that my presidential campaign just ran out of time," Perry explained. "But I haven't run out of ideas, or my belief in our shared conservative ideas."
Perry's address focused on what had endeared him to tea party conservatives -- a call for the power of the government to be reined in and returned to the states as the 10th Amendment intended.
He slammed the president in particular for decisions that amounted to an attack on "religious freedom," saying his administration's "war on faith must be defeated."
He concluded with his spin on the Chrysler Super Bowl commercial featuring Clint Eastwood that sparked a political debate about the auto bailout.
"If it's halftime in America, I'm fearful of what the final score's gonna be if we let this president start the second half as the quarterback," he said.