The Washington Times - September 15, 2011, 01:47PM

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is trying to cash in on what he sees as the dents on Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s conservative armor in the GOP race for the 2012 presidential nomination.

In a fundraising email blast Thursday, Mr. Santorum hammers the three-term Texas governor on illegal immigration and on his decision to issue an executive order — bypassing the state Legislature in Austin — that would have mandated that teenage girls in Texas public schools get vaccinated for sexually transmitted viruses.

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“Governor Perry’s willingness to use executive order and not the legislative process to push this policy through shines a light into what kind of president he would be — a president who believes in more government intrusion and who thinks he knows more about how to run our families than moms and dads across America,” Mr. Santorum wrote in the fundraising appeal.

Thanks in part to the fact that Mr. Santorum, a leading social conservative, lost his 2006 re-election bid in his home state by 18 points, he’s struggled to gain traction in the national polls in the Republican nomination race and hasn’t had much luck raising money.

Mr. Perry, meanwhile, has sprinted to the front of the GOP presidential field and reportedly is raking in large sums of money — making him a prime target for his Republican rivals.

Mr. Perry came under fire multiple times in Monday’s debate in Tampa, Fla. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Mr. Santorum criticized his 2007 executive order requiring teenage girls to be vaccinated for human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Mr. Perry pointed out that the order included a provision for parents to opt out of the program, and he said that if he could revisit the issue, he would have tried to push the proposal through the Texas Legislature.

Mr. Santorum pounced on the comments, saying the executive order should have given parents the option to participate, not require them to decline to take part. “There is no government purpose served for having little girls inoculated at the force and compulsion of the government,” Mr. Santorum said. “This is a big government run amok.”

In his fundraising letter, Mr. Santorum asks for donations upward of $1,000 and also expands his criticism into other parts of Mr. Perry’s record, including his backing of a tuition aid program in Texas that would have included children of illegal immigrants.

“I’m hopeful now that Governor Perry will change his position on other critical issues, including his opposition to building a border fence to keep our nation secure, his belief that we should give special tuition rates for children of illegal aliens, and his support of allowing states to change the definition of marriage,” he wrote.

“If you agree that these kinds of policies are wrong for America, please join our fight to restore conservative values in this country.”