SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry, all but certain to enter the GOP presidential race, on Wednesday called the country's economic turmoil a national nightmare but said better times are coming.
"Some out there may say that we're seeing America in decline, but I don't believe that," Perry said, striking an optimistic tone
befitting a full-fledged White House candidate. "I know our country's best days are still ahead of us. I believe in this country because I believe in Americans."
"I believe that even in this, one of our darkest hours, I'll tell you this West Texas optimist sees our brightest hour as just around the corner," Perry added.
Texas' longest-serving governor made the remarks before a conference of state lawmakers ahead of a series of trips to early primary voting states this weekend.
Perry is visiting South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa, a schedule that makes clear that he's likely to move forward with a presidential candidacy.
In his speech, he railed against Washington and its spending practices.
"Our fiscal house is built on shifting sands," Perry said. "Until Washington figures out that the only true stimulus is more money in the hands of employers across all economic sectors ... our national nightmare will continue."
He also called Texas "the epicenter for job growth" in the country," a message that is likely to be the centerpiece of a campaign.
Critics argue that many of the jobs are low-wage and Texas, which still has an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent, has the lowest rate of uninsured people in the nation.