ORLANDO, Fla. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry ripped into the universal health care plan that Mitt Romney signed into law as governor of Massachusetts, saying the program has failed, cost the state thousands of jobs and served as a blueprint for President Obama’s overhaul of the national system.
The three-term Texas governor, leading Mr. Romney in the GOP presidential polls, pointed to a recent study that blamed 18,000 job losses on Mr. Romney’s health care program, while warning that its failures offer the nation a cautionary tales of what’s to come if “Obamacare” is fully enacted.
“If Romneycare cost Massachusetts 18,000 jobs, just think what it would do to the entire nation,” Mr. Perry said, drawing a straight line between the state and federal programs.
He later added, “The model for socialized medicine has already been tried and it failed — not just in Western Europe, but in Massachusetts.”
Mr. Perry’s remarks came hours after another shaky performance in a nationally televised debate, where Mr. Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum chastised him for supporting of in-state tuition for some children of illegal immigrants and opposing a security fence to control illegal immigration along the border with Mexico.
Speaking to thousands gathered for the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting here at the gargantuan Orange County Convention Center, Mr. Perry tried to regroup and downplay the post-debate story lines that for the most part suggested he once again came out on the losing end of several sharp exchanges — adding to a growing sense that he might not be ready for prime time.
“We know that values really matter,” Mr. Perry said. “It’s not who is the slickest candidate or the smoothest debater that we need to elect. We need to elect the candidate with the best record and best vision for this country.”