Gov. Rick Perry, who bitterly clashed with Mitt Romney on the Republican presidential primary campaign trail, voted for the former Massachusetts governor Wednesday and predicted he would prevail in November.
Some have questioned whether Perry really believes that Romney can win — or wants him to — because he has repeatedly mentioned another run for president in 2016. But, standing outside an early primary voting location in Austin, Perry told reporters he is enthusiastically backing his former rival.
“On a scale of 10, show me as a 10,” Perry said. “We don’t really have an option here, if you’re a person who cares about the future of this country.”
Perry said he “absolutely” thought Romney would win.
“The election may be close, but it shouldn’t be,” he said.
Perry said Romney brings “private sector experience” to the table that Obama doesn’t have.
“He understands that government is not the answer to everything,” Perry said.
The embrace stands in stark contrast to the attacks Perry made on Romney a few months ago. In the waning days of his campaign in South Carolina, Perry described Romney, a former takeover artist at Bain Capital, as a “vulture” capitalist who preyed on weak companies and left laid-off workers to fend for themselves.
“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,” Perry said in January. “They leave with that and they leave the skeleton.”
Now, the Obama campaign is using a similar attack against Romney. Perry said he considers his criticism of Romney’s track record at Bain, which largely backfired among conservatives, water under the bridge.
“Folks may want to draw some comparisons about what was said during a primary. That’s their business,” he said. “If you’re gonna vote for Barack Obama, you’re not voting on economic reasons.”
Perry spoke to voters outside an early voting location in Tarrytown, one of Austin’s wealthiest neighborhoods. He was accompanied by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is in the throes of a nasty GOP primary battle to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Perry has endorsed Dewhurst, even as many Tea Party conservatives are rallying around challenger Ted Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general.
Perry was asked if he would endorse the other top Texas leader who has a primary challenge on his hands — Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. Straus, criticized as too moderate by some conservative groups, is being challenged by political novice Matt Beebe, who portrays himself as the “true conservative” in the race.
“I don’t endorse people until I get asked,” Perry said.
Straus spokeswoman Erin Daly released a written statement after Perry spoke, but didn't say whether Straus would ask Perry for his support.
"Speaker Straus is proud of his endorsements from business groups, first responders and conservative leaders throughout Texas and welcomes support from anyone who appreciates his respectful conservative leadership in the Texas House," Daly said.