Perry Campaign Amplifies Attacks On Santorum

fromKUT

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry has been aboard a bus touring Iowa hoping to score an upset in next Tuesday's caucuses. Perry spent Thursday trying to reverse the surge that challenger Rick Santorum has seen in a recent poll.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. Presidential frontrunner, Mitt Romney, spent much of this week touring Iowa by bus, as did many of his rivals. And while they didn't travel the same routes, you might imagine the rest trying to catch up to Romney in the first state to vote.

INSKEEP: The various bus passengers included former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, and the two candidates we'll hear from next. Minnesota Congresswoman, Michelle Bachmann, and Texas Governor, Rick Perry, both soared in polls earlier this year. Later, both faded, and now they're fighting for a strong enough showing in Iowa to revive their campaigns. Ben Philpott, of member station KUT, is traveling with the Perry campaign.

BEN PHILPOTT, BYLINE: Over the course of his bus tour Rick Perry has laid out several themes. He's focused on corruption, his plan for a part time Congress. And yesterday in Cedar Rapids, he called himself an outsider and said he's the only candidate who can fix Washington.

RICK PERRY: Why should you settle for anyone less than an authentic conservative to represent your values and your views without apology in Washington, D.C.? Why? You shouldn't.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

PHILPOTT: Perry's campaign hoped the bus tour would push the governor back into the top tier in Iowa. But a CNN/Time poll released Wednesday has former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum jumping over Perry, and even Gingrich, into third place. That's why each speech Thursday was all about trying to reverse the Santorum surge.

PERRY: You know, I love Iowa pork. But I hate Washington pork.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PERRY: And Senator Santorum, he loaded up his bills with Pennsylvania pork.

PHILPOTT: Perry was talking about Santorum's use of earmarking. That's the practice of directing federal dollars back to pet projects in a lawmaker's state. Perry described Santorum as a prolific earmarker.

PERRY: In fact, he said I'm very proud of all the earmarks that I've put into the legislation. He said I will defend my earmarks. Well, Senator, I'm calling you out. Defend your earmarks. Defend, to the people of this country and to Iowa, those earmarks that I happen to think are the gateway drug to the spending problem that we've got in Washington, D.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

PHILPOTT: The Perry campaign amplified its attack on Santorum by releasing a new radio ad yesterday morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Who personally demanded more than $1 billion of earmarks in his 16 years in Congress? Jay from Ames.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Rick Santorum?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Right. Santorum grabbed for a billion in earmarks, until voters kicked him out of office in a landslide.

PHILPOTT: The ad and speeches show the toughest talk from Perry, so far, in Iowa. It may also show the campaign's desperation. When asked Thursday, if there was any outcome that would end his campaign, Perry said, quote, "Well, that's God's will."

For NPR News, I'm Ben Philpott traveling with the Perry Campaign.

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