ANDERSON, S.C. — It’s been a long time since Gov. Rick Perry tore into the presidential front-runner, but on Monday he let Mitt Romney have it.
Perry, campaigning in a state known for bare-knuckle politics, mocked the former Massachusetts governor for saying recently that he sometimes lived with the fear of losing his own job.
Romney has portrayed his leadership at Bain Capital as an asset, describing it as the kind of business experience the country needs. But his opponents are increasingly using the Bain years to paint Romney as a corporate raider who got rich on the backs of laid-off workers.
“I had to shake my head yesterday when one of the wealthiest men I suppose has ever run for the presidency of the United States, the son of a multimillionaire, Mitt Romney, he said, 'I know what it’s like to worry about whether you’re going to get fired,'” Perry said at Mama Penn restaurant in Anderson, S.C. “I have no doubt that Mitt Romney was worried about pink slips, whether he was going to have enough of them to hand out, because his company Bain Capital with all the jobs that they killed, I’m sure he was worried that he’d run out of pink slips.”
Perry, hoping to revive his sagging candidacy in a southern state more receptive to his populist anti-government rhetoric, mentioned at least two companies in South Carolina that he said were negatively impacted by Bain takeovers — one making photo albums in nearby Gaffney and a steel company in Georgetown.
Perry said Bain “looted” and “squeezed” the companies for management profits and left the workers holding the bag.
“There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business, and I happen to think that’s indefensible,” Perry said. “If you’re a victim of Bain Capital’s downsizing, it’s the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina and tell you he feels your pain because he caused it.”
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Perry and candidate Newt Gingrich, who has stepped up attacks on the frontrunner, were both acting like Democrats."
"It is no surprise that, having spent nearly half a century in government between them, Speaker Gingrich and Governor Perry have resorted to desperate attacks on a subject they don’t understand. We expect attacks on free enterprise from President Obama and his allies on the left – not from so-called ‘fiscal conservatives,’ " Saul said in an email. "Speaker Gingrich and Governor Perry seem to think that running against the private sector is the way to revive their floundering campaigns."
During a question-and-answer period at the restaurant in Anderson, Perry was asked about another rival, Texas Congressman Ron Paul — specifically whether Paul would make a good chairman of the Federal Reserve.
He said Paul would be an "ideal person to head up the Fed and put a little fear in their hearts.”
Romney is poised to win big tomorrow in New Hampshire, the nation's first primary, a contest Perry has decided to ignore because he’s so far down in the polls, at about 1 percent.
After bombing out in Iowa, Perry is putting all his hope in South Carolina, the nation’s first southern primary, which is held Jan. 21.