- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 11, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Sunday again reached out to Iowa’s religious conservatives in an effort to resurrect his flagging presidential campaign.

On “Fox News Sunday,” he repeated his criticism of the Obama administration’s decision to allow gays to serve openly in the military by overturning the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The Texas governor, who has been running a new commercial in Iowa touting his Christian faith, called the White House position “irresponsible.”

“This administration’s values are different than, I would suggest, certainly the people in Iowa,” he said.

In his commercial, Mr. Perry says, “I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a Christian. But you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong with this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion.”

In the latest Republican candidates’ debate Saturday night, Mr. Perry landed jabs on both front-runners in the GOP field, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Asked whether marriage matters, Mr. Perry took an indirect shot at Mr. Gingrich, saying, “I’ve always kind of been of the opinion that if you cheat on your wife, you’ll cheat on your business partner. So I think that issue of fidelity is important.”

The twice-divorced Mr. Gingrich, in reaching out to social conservatives, has acknowledged “mistakes” in his personal life.

Mr. Perry also criticized Mr. Romney about his Massachusetts health care law, often cited by the Obama administration as a model for the Affordable Care Act.

After the Mr. Romney challenged him to an impromptu $10,000 bet Saturday night to prove his charges, the Texas governor kept the heat on Sunday in his interview on Fox TV.

“The issue of individual mandates is still at the center here, and Mitt can deny this as many times as he wants, but in his first book, hardcover of ‘No Apologies,’ he clearly stated that individual mandate should be the model for this country. And then he took that out of the book in the paperback, and that’s the fact, and even a $10,000 bet is not going to cover that.”

Mr. Romney, for his part, didn’t back away Sunday from his end of the exchange, although he said his wife reminded him about his poor gambling.

“After the debate was over, Ann came up and gave me a kiss,” Mr. Romney said while campaigning in New Hampshire. “And she said, ‘there are a lot of things you do well. Betting isn’t one of them.’”

Ron Paul also took a shot at the two front-runners, Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich, in an effort to open up the GOP field to other candidates like himself. “I would say they’re not consistent,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding, “They’ve changed their positions.”

Both Mr. Paul and Mr. Perry are part of a group of lower-polling GOP candidates who are hoping to catch the Republican wave in the coming weeks that previously fueled businessman Herman Cain and now Mr. Gingrich to the top of the polls.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. is hoping to do the same.

“There have been so many ups and downs in this race, I’m getting whiplash,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve had six front-runners.”

About his own campaign, which has zeroed in on New Hampshire, he said, “We’re going nowhere but up. In the weeks ahead, I do believe we’re going to move right up to the top of the pack.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Gingrich’s team tried to deflect the pressure to the Romney campaign. Gingrich campaign adviser Bob Walker called their rivals the “Romney Rottweiler group” on CNN.

“The fact is here that Newt continues to be a positive force in this campaign,” Mr. Walker said. “He continues to define the issues.”

Mr. Gingrich got some support from Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I’m not going to endorse him, but I think he could beat President Obama,” said Mr. Graham, adding, “I think [the Republican Party] is in a good spot to win this election. It’s ours to lose.”

Mr. Graham called on Mr. Paul to endorse the GOP nominee, if he loses the primary, rather than run as a third party, because he has a strong following that could help knock off President Obama.

“The Ron Paul element of the party is real,” he said. “He has a lot of enthusiasm.”