- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry kicked off Columbus Day with a sharply critical new Web ad that lights into presidential rival Mitt Romney’s support of universal health care in Massachusetts, calling it evidence that the former governor’s attempts to cast himself as a successful conservative businessman ring hollow.

A day ahead of a GOP debate in the crucial primary state of New Hampshire, Mr. Romney’s camp responded almost immediately, saying the ad used deceptive editing and showed Mr. Perry growing “desperate” as he sinks in the polls.

Mr. Perry’s new “Romney’s Remedy” spot describes Mr. Romney as the co-author of President Obama’s national health care overhaul - showing Mr. Obama gazing into a mirror that flashes the reflection of Mr. Romney’s image. (Click here to view the ad.)

“Even the richest man,” the ad’s caption reads, “can’t buy back his past.”

The ad also says the Bay State program, which includes the “individual mandate” to purchase insurance that conservatives abhor in the president’s plan, cost Massachusetts 18,000 jobs and $8 billion in new expenses.

Mr. Romney has vowed on multiple occasions to replace what he calls “Obamacare” and, while defending his state program, said he opposes a national version that requires people to obtain coverage.

As for his repeated claim that the former Massachusetts governor is a “conservative businessman,” the Perry ad responds, “nice try.”

“When it comes to government-mandated health care, there is no difference between Mitt Romney and President Obama,” Perry spokesman Mark Miner said.

The Romney camp said the ad is proof Mr. Perry will say “anything to prop up his sinking campaign.”

They said the ad cherry-picks clips from a 2007 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that makes it seem as though Mr. Romney supported universal health care on the federal level.

In the commercial, NBC moderator Tim Russert prods Mr. Romney about the universal health care he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts. “Why, if it’s good for Massachusetts and it’s working in Massachusetts, wouldn’t you apply it to the rest of the country?” he asked. To which, Mr. Romney responds, “I would.”

But the ad fails to point out that the interview continued, with Mr. Russert following up with a question as whether Mr. Romney was saying he supported the individual mandate.

“No,” Mr. Romney said. “Let me tell you what I would do, just exactly as I described. I like what we did in Massachusetts. I think it’s a great plan. But I’m a federalist. I don’t believe in applying what works in one state to all states if different states have different circumstances.”

Gail Gitcho, Mr. Romney’s communications director, described Mr. Perry as “desperate” and trying to deflect attention from questions that have arisen about his own record as governor of Texas.

“In trying to deflect attention from his liberal in-state tuition policy for illegal immigrants, he has resorted to repeated dishonesty, distortions and fabrications about Mitt Romney,” she said. “After a mere eight weeks on the trail, Gov. Perry is poised to dethrone his onetime boss Al Gore as the most prolific exaggerator and truth-fumbler in presidential campaign history.”

She is referencing Mr. Perry’s previous support of Mr. Gore’s 1988 Democratic presidential campaign.

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