ORLANDO — Gov. Rick Perry is praying for Barack Obama again.
In a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Orlando, a few hours before his third presidential debate, Perry said the most frequent target of his political attacks needed a little divine intervention to guide him in the White House.
“I ask you to pray for our country. I ask you to pray for our president, to give him wisdom, to open his eyes,” Perry said. A few scattered shouts of “amen” and “hallelujah” could be heard in response.
The governor had famously called on God to help Obama during his “prayer and fasting” event in Houston this summer, and he has overtly displayed his faith as he campaigns for president. (The call for prayer came a day after Perry released a harsh attack ad calling Obama “President Zero").
Perry and all of the major presidential candidates, who are squaring off tonight on a televised stage in Orlando, made religious appeals to the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Organized by former Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed, it was held in a hotel ballroom across from the convention center where the candidates will participate in the Fox News/Google debate.
Perry told the group that he had made numerous “decisions with consequences” as Texas governor.
“I couldn’t have done so without being driven to my knees on many occasions,” he said.
While he was striking a faithful tone, Perry’s campaign was working to strip a little bark off of the governor’s main rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. In a pre-debate press release, the Perry campaign sought to portray Romney as a multimillionaire who is out of touch with the GOP electorate.
The campaign was poking fun at Romney, said to be worth $200 million or more, for telling Florida voters he was part of the giant middle class.
“Will Middle Class Mitt again grace the stage in the Sunshine State?” the Perry campaign asked in a taunting email.
The two candidates are engaged in an increasingly bitter struggle for the Republican nomination, and Florida is emerging as a key battleground.
The state is home to millions of seniors who depend on Social Security, and Romney has unleashed a torrent of criticism against Perry over the issue, saying his controversial views about Social Security make him “unelectable.” The Perry campaign says the attacks have Romney “sounding like a Democrat.”
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