Texas Gov. Rick Perry, fresh off his debut debate since entering the GOP presidential contest, assumed his front-runner status during a fundraising swing through California on Thursday, barely mentioning his Republican rivals as he excoriated President Obama’s handling of the economy.
“When you look across this country, one in six, one in six work-eligible Americans cannot find a job. Mr. President, that is not an economic recovery, that is an economic disaster,” Perry told 1,000 supporters at a rally at Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar. “We cannot afford four more years of a high unemployment record, of a failed stimulus, this record debt, this loss of our credit. It is time for a change, and I’m not talking about the rhetoric of change, I’m talking about a record of change and I’ve got that record.”
Perry made his remarks at one of three public events during a three-day swing through California. He also headlined fundraisers in San Diego, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, San Jose and Fresno. The Orange County fundraiser luncheon took place at the tony Island Hotel after the rally at the nursery, where Perry spoke for just over eight minutes, less time than he spent shaking hands afterword, and called Orange County “a raspberry in a blueberry pie,” a reference to the area’s history of conservatism in a Democratic state.
The events come the day after Perry’s first debate since entering the race in mid-August. Perry was attacked by several of his GOP rivals over his jobs creation record, his labeling of social security as a “Ponzi scheme,” his questioning of climate change and other issues, and questioned by the moderators over education quality and the heavy use of the death penalty in Texas, to the point that at one point Perry said he felt like a “piñata.” Perry in turn directly confronted his rivals, notably former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney.
But on Thursday, he did not mention them by name and only glancingly referred to them, saying that he would provide the sharpest contrast with Obama in the general election.
“Last night was pretty awesome. It was our first debate,” Perry said. “I stood on a stage last night with seven other very, very fine and great Americans and every one of them would be better than what we have in the White House today, any one of them…. Look we got our differences and we’ll talk about them and what have you and hopefully in a very respectful way and I do respect them. But the point is we need to have a nominee that doesn’t blur the lines between themselves and the current resident of the White House, and I’ll promise you one thing, I have got that contrast between Obama and myself. President Obama and I are different.”
Later, after recounting various measures that he championed that he said kept Texas’ economy growing while the nation’s shrank, Perry said this record is why he should be the GOP nominee.
“With all due respect to my folks who are my competitors, nobody else has got a record like I’ve got in the state of Texas, or in this country for that matter, a record that serves as a roadmap for this country to get our econ back on track and get America working,” Perry said.
While Perry avoided the controversies that bubbled at Wednesday night’s debates, those who introduced him did not hold back and said provocative language such as calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” is necessary.
“I understand we can use colorful rhetoric, maybe even some inflammatory rhetoric, sometimes it helps prove your point,” said Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who announced he was endorsing Perry at the event. “When an organization promises to give out more than mathematically we know it’s going to take in, what do you call it?”
“A Ponzi scheme!” responded the crowd, which had a large number of older people.
Nelson said Perry deserved credit for speaking honestly about the nation’s problems, and not backing down over his choice of words during Wednesday’s debate.
“I happen to agree with the governor, he’s got a good idea. It is a Ponzi scheme. And I for one am about ready to have a leader of my country who’s going to step outside the teleprompter, look us in the eye and be honest with us about our condition,” Nelson said. “I think we are mature and intelligent enough to accept the adult discussion that goes along with the reality our country is in, and Gov. Perry is ready and prepared to do just that.”
Orange County GOP chairman Scott Baugh, who is unaffiliated with a candidate, also questioned the motives of those who challenged Perry’s words.
“I think I heard the word provocative last night, how many of you heard that in the debate?” he said. “Yes, Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, and yes, the emperor has no clothes. Why is that those who simply make these truthful observations are castigated as uncaring or reckless? This doesn’t mean that people who rely on Social Security will be cut off--that’s a false scare tactic of those who want to maintain the status quo .”