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December 26th, 2014
05:34 PM ET

Rick Perry on possible 2016 run: 'I will be prepared'

Austin, Texas (CNN) – Standing in the governor's mansion here, Rick Perry is eager to give us a tour, and a history lesson.

From how a nick got into the banister (a predecessor put nails in to stop his daughter from sliding down), to why Sam Houston crumpled up a telegram from Abraham Lincoln and threw it in the living room fireplace (he was too old to fight alongside Union troops).

This is not the Rick Perry the country saw during his ill-fated, at times embarrassing, 2012 presidential campaign. And that's the point.

He is about to step down as Texas governor after 14 years, the longest serving in Lone Star state history, and is trying to reintroduce himself as competent and charismatic as he test drives his message for a probable second White House run.

"Americans are begging for a positive view of the future, for an individual who's got a record being able to make the future better for their families. And that's exactly what we've done in Texas over the last 14 years, more jobs created than any other state, a third of all the jobs created in America since I've been governor were created in Texas," Perry said, brimming with confidence and pride.

He is leaving with some unwanted baggage, like an indictment for abuse of power his advisers call politically motivated. Still, Perry spent most of December hosting potential 2016 donors and supporters in a series of lunches and dinners at the governor’s mansion – prepping his pitch.

"Americans are looking for competent leadership, and sometimes it shows itself in ways you can never have dreamed of. A space shuttle disintegrating over the eastern side of your state, a causeway that was felled by an errant barge. Hurricane that come in and dislocate hundreds of thousands of people into your state," Perry told us during an interview at the governor's mansion, reciting many of the crises he tackled during his tenure.

"The disease of Ebola coming onto our shores, and the first city, and they saw how we dealt with that," he said.

Perry has long blamed his poor performance in 2012 on pain and medication from back surgery.

And he admits he was just plain not prepared. He has spent the last two years boning up on foreign policy, on economic policy, on every type of policy you can imagine.

"Well running for President of the United States requires an inordinate amount of preparation and just being governor of Texas for five years isn't enough. And I made the commitment two years ago plus that not only I was going to spend the time in preparation, whether it was going to the Hoover (Institution) and the Brookings Institute, you know, kind of across the board talking to experts. Sitting at the feet of Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, picking their brain about what's going on in the world. That has paid great dividends. If I make the decision to run for the presidency, I will be prepared," he said.

Earlier this month, Jeb Bush became the first Republican to make official moves towards a 2016 run. What does Perry think of Jeb Bush as a competitor?

"Jeb's a good man, he's a good friend, great family, good governor of Florida. As a matter of fact I think Jeb getting into the race will help the field," Perry said.

How so?

"He's been a successful governor, and again having a person of his background in the race makes a lot of sense. But it won't make a difference about whether I get in or not," he insisted.

Bush family donors run wide, and deep in Texas – where Perry too would have to base his financial support for any campaign. He insists there is enough to go around.

"If I decide to make the race, this will be about our vision, this will be about talking about the future of this country, laying out a positive progressive view of what this country can be," he said, bending over backwards to come across as unconcerned.

Perry was Lieutenant Governor of Texas when Jeb's brother, George W. Bush, was governor, and they didn't always get along. In fact tension between Perry and the Bush family is an open secret.

When asked about that, he downplayed any bad blood.

"Listen this is a great family, you look back at George H. W. Bush who chose Texas A&M as the site of his library and comes to practically every Aggie football game, and to George living in this state. They're a great family, and I respect them greatly, I always have and always will," he said.

Perry is taking 2016 prep beyond policy, to performance. He is working with a company called Podium Masters, which is run by former head of the famed Royal Shakespeare Company.

"I guess so my Hamlet would come out right when I decide to quote Hamlet on the stage," Perry joked when asked about why he is engaging in that kind of media training.

"I think that's an appropriate thing to be engaged with folks to help in all aspects of your public speaking ... I desire to be better at what I do, and I think that's a very important part of it," he added.

One of the most infamous moments of 2012 was during a debate when Perry tried to recite three federal agencies he wanted to eliminate, and couldn’t remember the third, saying sheepishly: "Ooops."

Is he doing what he can to avoid that in any 2016 run?

"That would be preferable," Perry responded dryly.

He clearly knows it is going to take a lot of work going from punchline in 2012 to presidential nominee in 2016 – and he is doing that work, and then some.

But when he leaves office next month, he insists he is going to take several months before making a White House run official.

"I've got a little bit of things to do during that period after January the 20th. Moving into a new house, got a new grandbaby coming – some things that are important. I can still multitask and prepare at the same time," said Perry.

CNN’s Adam Levy contributed to this report

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