Gov. Rick Perry is attacking his Republican opponents in a TV ad for the first time in the presidential race, going after the top two front-runners in an increasingly aggressive effort to get his campaign back on track.
The ad names both former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and focuses on their previous statements and actions in support of health insurance mandates.
Requiring people to get insurance is the most controversial piece of the sweeping health care legislation that Republicans call Obamacare.
“Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and President Obama all support government health care mandates," Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said in a written statement. “Gov. Perry opposes government-mandated health coverage and is firmly committed to repealing the job-killing Obamacare to protect families and job creators from the burden it imposes on them.”
While Perry has not been shy about attacking Romney in debates and media interviews, the governor has taken it easy on Gingrich — who had written a foreword to Perry's Washington-bashing book, Fed Up! In one recent debate, Gingrich suggested the relationship was still warm, calling Perry a “mentor” on 10th Amendment issues.
The fuzzy feelings appear to have lasted only as long as Gingrich was not seen as a serious contender for the White House. Now it is Perry who is on the ropes, and he has a huge bank account to finance a blitz of TV ads.
In the latest ad, Gingrich — who has opened up a big lead in the GOP race — is the first in the crosshairs.
“We don’t want government-mandated health care,” says an ominous-sounding voice as the ad opens. “Yet Newt Gingrich supports it.” The ad shows a photo of Gingrich with a banner that reads, “Supporter of health care mandates.”
“And Mitt Romney?” the ad continues. “He put it into law in Massachusetts.”
Romney has said he still believes his approach was right for Massachusetts but favors allowing states to adopt their own reforms. Gingrich has said he made a mistake by supporting government-mandated health insurance.