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In 2008, Mr. Obama became the first Democrat since 1964 to carry Virginia, but with a sputtering economy and the threat of a double-dip recession, his approval ratings have been hovering in the mid-40s.

Since entering the race, Mr. Perry has immediately shot to the top of national GOP presidential polls. A poll released Wednesday by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling firm put him in front with 31 percent of the vote. His closest rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, took 18 percent.

Despite the bombast during his address, Mr. Perry twice sidestepped questions after the event about comments made by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, that money for disaster relief should be offset with federal spending cuts.

“I think we need to look at our budget from top to bottom,” Mr. Perry said. “In a … $3-plus trillion budget, if we can’t find the monies to take care of our natural disasters, we’re not paying attention.”

Several orange “Perry/McDonnell 2012” pins were sprinkled throughout the crowd, but when asked about Mr. McDonnell as a potential running mate after his remarks, Mr. Perry brushed the question aside, replying, “That is thinking too far ahead.”