New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) - As speculation mounts about his presidential ambitions, Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivered a rousing and unapologetic defense of conservative principles on Saturday at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans.
Perry repeatedly brought an audience of hundreds of Republican activists to their feet with a small government message reminiscent of the one that helped him win an unprecedented third term as governor last November.
Perry said there is "too much spending, too much interfering and too much apologizing" in Washington.
"Stand up!," Perry thundered. "Let's speak with pride about our morals and our values and redouble our effort to elect more conservative Republicans. Let's stop this American downward spiral!"
Perry made no mention of his political plans and avoided the media by slipping out the back of the hotel where the conference was held following his speech.
But it was clear that the governor was positioning himself as a conservative heavyweight with a credible economic record should he decide to join the crowded Republican presidential field.
He has said he will make a decision after Texas wraps up legislative business at the end of the month.
At one point, Perry asked the audience to take out their phones and text the word "Forward" to a number linked to his political organization, capturing their contact information in the event of a future campaign.
He sounded right at home when speaking about social issues that many Republican primary voters hold dear.
"When it comes to conservative social issues, it saddens me when sometimes my fellow Republicans duck and cover in the face of pressure from the left," he said, without naming names.
And a day after Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour spoke here and urged Republicans not to get hung up on "purity" or ideology when choosing a presidential nominee, Perry said the party should never capitulate on its principles.
"Our party cannot be all things to all people," he said. "It can't be. Our loudest opponents on the left are never going to like us, so let's stop trying to curry favor with them."
Perry took a moment to "brag a little bit on Texas conservative values."
Under his watch, he said, Texas has created nearly 50 percent of the nation's jobs over the last two years and balanced the state budget (though he did not mention that the state used federal stimulus money to plug a big budget hole).
He listed a simple four-point recipe for a health economy: "don't spend all the money," keep taxes low, maintain a fair and predictable regulatory climate, and reform the legal system to prevent frivolous lawsuits.
When Perry left the stage after his 20-minute address, the crowd showered him with chants of "Run, Rick, Run!"