LEXINGTON, S.C. –- Texas Gov. Rick Perry has come under fire in several interviews for attacking rival Mitt Romney’s record of merging or shuttering companies in South Carolina during his time leading Bain Capital, a private investment firm. But Perry is standing by those attacks, insisting –- in what could be seen as a tacit acceptance that Romney will be the eventual nominee – that he’s just toughening his rival up for a general-election fight.
“He’s going to have to defend this,” Perry said in an interview on "Fox and Friends" on Wednesday morning. “And better in January than September if he’s going to be our nominee and have to explain.”
He made a similar comment to CNN’s Piers Morgan Tuesday night after the primary results, going so far as to suggest he was helping Romney. “If nothing else, we’re doing Mitt a favor by exposing him early on, so he can either figure out how to defend that, or more importantly, from my perspective, he can figure out how to defend that.”
If he does believe that Romney is going to be the nominee, Perry’s advisors have given no indication that he will scale back his criticism to avoid bloodying his party’s likely representative. If anything, his criticism of Romney’s record at Bain might increase -- as will similar critiques by some of his opponents -- as Perry makes his last campaign stand in South Carolina.
He’s tying those attacks into his populist message that Washington and Wall Street are corrupt, despite his defense of the free market in ares such as energy production. “I don’t believe capitalism is making a buck under any circumstances,” Perry said on Fox.
He also sought to use the criticism to make a case for his own electability. “Listen, I’ve been the governor of a state that has created more jobs than any other state in the nation during the decade of the 2000s," he said. "I get it about job creation. I understand the difference between venture capital and vulture capitalism ... The idea that we can’t criticize someone for these get-rich-quick schemes is not appropriate from my perspective.”
Perry dismissed his sixth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary as a "long shot at best." He drew just 1 percent of the Granite State vote after largely shunning the state to concentrate on South Carolina.
When he first kicked off his campaign, Perry said he found out Gaffney, S.C. was the home of "one of these companies that Bain Capital had gone in and basically picked the flesh off the carcass."
Perry has alleged that Bain Capital's "harsh tactics" caused 150 workers to lose their jobs from a company in Gaffney -- and more to lose jobs in Georgetown, S.C.
"The people of South Carolina don't think those tactics are appropriate," he said.