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LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Potential Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Rick Perry spoke yesterday at the annual meeting sponsored by the conservative website RedState. Lauren Silverman of member station KERA takes a look at the candidacy question both Texans danced around at the event in Fort Worth.

LAUREN SILVERMAN, BYLINE: It's the presidential race no one is talking about. Two Texas political stars are both testing the waters for a run in 2016 - without mentioning it, of course. Three years ago, at RedState's South Carolina get-together, Governor Rick Perry announced his 2012 presidential bid. This time there was no announcement, but Perry sounded like he was giving a campaign speech.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

REPRESENTATIVE RICK PERRY: Since I became governor, Texas has created 35 percent of all the private sector new jobs in this country. That's a powerful, powerful visual.

SILVERMAN: After touching on job creation, slamming President Obama on the Keystone pipeline and Obamacare, he went for the issue that's relaunched his presidential plans - immigration.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PERRY: If Washington won't act to secure the border, as the governor of Texas, I will.

(APPLAUSE)

SILVERMAN: Perry's tough stance on the surge of immigrant children and criticism of the Obama administration has helped him regain popularity with conservative voters. Since he ordered 1,000 National Guard troops to the border in July, he's moved from the bottom of most polls closer to the top, last week tying Florida Governor Jeb Bush for number one in a Fox News poll. But Perry wasn't the only Texan in the Fort Worth hotel ballroom. Meet his dance partner, Ted Cruz.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

REPRESENTATIVE TED CRUZ: Well, welcome to Texas.

SILVERMAN: Texas Senator Cruz is also eyeing a 2016 run. SMU political science professor Cal Jillson says the two are doing a sort of square dance.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUZ: Swing your partner high and low.

CAL JILLSON: They are sometimes well away from each other, but in a choreographed dance to try to capture the attention of the Republican primary electorate.

SILVERMAN: And they're doing it in very different ways. As governor for the past 14 years, Perry highlights his executive leadership. Ted Cruz presents himself as taking on Washington and defending the Constitution.

JILLSON: Perry, strangely enough, is trying a more intellectual policy road to the nomination, whereas Cruz is taking an emotional path.

SILVERMAN: Yesterday, speaking to a riled up crowd holding signs with his name, Cruz said it's time to make D.C. listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

CRUZ: And as Reagan said, if you can't make them see the light, make them feel the heat.

SILVERMAN: Former Senator Jim DeMint, who now runs The Heritage Foundation, says the two share core conservative ideas but have different styles. And right now, he sees them gliding across the country together.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WALTZ OF THE FLOWERS")

JIM DEMINT: They will certainly be waltzing around each other for a while. But if they both end up in the top two or three, then I think it will probably be more of a - maybe we'll just say a jitterbug-type dance. (Laughter).

SILVERMAN: The acrobatic dance could start soon, as both Cruz and Perry head to Iowa this weekend. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Silverman in Fort Worth.

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