FORT MILL, S.C. — Rick Perry, trying to claw his way back into the 2012 presidential competition, conjured up images of hungry vultures on Tuesday to describe front-runner Mitt Romney’s past as a corporate takeover artist.
Perry and other GOP hopefuls are increasingly using Romney’s track record at Bain Capital, the firm he led before becoming governor of Massachusetts, to tar the presidential front-runner as a purveyor of greed and economic ruin.
Romney says he’s proud of his tenure there and frequently uses it to tout business credentials the other candidates don’t have. But during a town hall meeting in Fort Mill, Perry cited South Carolina companies that were taken over, broken up or sold off, prompting hundreds of layoffs.
Hoping to spark populist outrage and ignite some badly needed momentum, Perry went for the most graphic portrayal he could muster in describing how Bain Capital operated.
“Allowing these companies to come in and loot the, loot people’s jobs, loot their pensions, loot their ability to take care of their families and I will suggest they’re just vultures,” Perry said. “They’re vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass. They leave with that and they leave the skeleton.”
Romney’s campaign has dismissed the attacks on Bain as the work of “desperate” candidates who are getting their cues from the Democrats.
Perry said he’s a capitalist but rejected the notion that Romney was simply acting on free market principles at Bain, which specialized in taking over troubled companies and turning them around or getting them ready for sale.
“I think that we have allowed these greedy people on Wall Street to take advantage of both small companies that may be going through some tough times and instead of trying to work with them to find a way to keep the jobs and to get them back on their feet, it’s all about how much money can we make, how quick can we make it and then get out of town and find the next carcass to feed upon," Perry said.
Perry is bypassing Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, the first in the nation. Little wonder. Perry is barely registering in opinion surveys there. Perry came in a dismal fifth place in the Iowa Caucuses and now is counting on the first southern contest to make him a serious competitor again.
“I’m not here to come in second,” Perry said. But the governor declined to say what whether he would give up and go home if he doesn’t win the Palmetto State.
“I’m not going to play the game of what ifs and what have you,” Perry said. “Our intention is to win. I can’t tell you anything other than that.”
Earlier, the governor also made it clear during his speech at a retirement community that his repeated references to the Alamo — and the role South Carolina natives William Barrett Travis and James Butler Bonham played there — don’t mean he sees his campaign here as a last-ditch suicide mission.
“This isn’t our Alamo. This is our San Jacinto,” Perry said. “And unlike Travis, help is on the way for people of the United States.”