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Perry criticizes Santorum, Paul as Iowa caucuses near

- The Washington Times - Friday, December 30, 2011

Waverly, Iowa Struggling to regain his footing after a virtual free fall in the polls in recent months, Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday doubled down on his attacks on former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and opened fire on Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Mr. Perry continued his condemnation of Mr. Santorum, whom on Thursday he labeled a "prolific earmarker," demanding that he explain his support for a flurry of pet projects during his Senate tenure.

"Senator Santorum, just to get a little more specific here, please tell me why you asked taxpayers to support the bridge to nowhere in Alaska. Why did you ask the taxpayers of Iowa to support a teapot museum in North Carolina, an indoor rainforest in Iowa, and the mountain sheep institute, Montana sheep institute? Why were those important enough for you to vote for?" Mr. Perry said to a crowd of more than 100 gathered at Doughy Joey's Peetza- Joint in Waterloo, Iowa.

Mr. Perry also skewered Mr. Santorum for raising the debt ceiling eight times.

"How is that fiscally conservative? Mortgaging the future on our children's credit card," Mr. Perry said. "That's part of the problem in Washington, D.C. Asking a Washington insider to stop runaway spending is like asking a bank robber to guard the vault."

He repeated the same statements later in the day to a crowd at the Fainting Goat, a local Waverly, Iowa bar and grill, where he also opened a line of attack on Mr. Paul's isolationist foreign policy.

"Iran wants a nuclear weapon so they can wipe Israel off the face of the earth, and we're next," Mr. Perry said. "That's one of the things that Rep. Paul and I are on a 180-degree course on...his remarks that Iran attaining a nuclear weapon wouldn't be a problem."

"I happen to think that that's either the most naive thing I've ever heard for a representative who's spent a lot of time in Congress or it's someone who is so out of sync with the American people that they don't need to be the President of the United States. It's dangerous."

Early in his remarks to the crowd in Waverly, Mr. Perry seemed to be failing to connect, pausing awkwardly a couple of times for applause lines that never came. But the crowd, a mix of Iowans wearing Rick Perry stickers and many who remain uncommitted, seemed to appreciate the criticism of Mr. Paul's position on Iran and applauded enthusiastically.

An NBC Marist poll released Friday had Mr. Perry in fourth place in Iowa with 14 percent support, just one point behind Mr. Santorum, whose popularity has been surging in recent days.

Holly Bixby, a high school civics student who attended the event with her father Eric, said she was leaning toward supporting Mr. Paul but not when it comes to foreign policy.

"I agree with [Mr. Perry's] foreign policy rather than Ron Paul's," she said after listening to Mr. Perry answer questions.

Although only 17, Miss Bixby will be 18 by the time Iowa awards delegates next year and can participate in Tuesday's caucus.

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