AMES, Iowa – Texas Gov. Rick Perry continued to hammer his rival Mitt Romney for challenging him to a $10,000 bet, suggesting Sunday afternoon, in one breath, that Romney was so rich the value meant little him and that he might have misspoken during Saturday night’s debate.
“I would suggest to you that 10,000 is pocket change for Mitt to make that statement,” Perry told reporters here. “But you’ll need to ask him. You know, maybe it was just a misstatement or something, who knows.”
From the morning talk shows to campaign trail, Perry spent much of the day Sunday criticizing Romney as out of touch with ordinary voters—a theme that the Democratic National Committee picked up on when it released a video filled with analysts criticizing Romney’s move.
In Iowa, the governor’s remarks came during a meet and greet with voters, the end of which was marked by a disruption from a handful of protestors who came in the back of the coffee shop where Perry was speaking.
“Why do you hate gay people so much? Why can’t gays compete in the military?” protestors yelled at Perry, responding to recent ads in Iowa in which he has questioned why gay service members are allowed to openly serve in the military while children can’t celebrate Christmas in school. Perry has also lambasted President Obama for repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that used to prevent gay service members from serving openly. Perry said he would reinstate that policy.
Perry did not engage with the protestors, instead working the crowd for a few minutes before taking questions on Romney and then leaving. The disruptions were so loud and the crowd in the small shop so large he barely took time to shake hands and talk to voters as he normally does.
Perry is also standing by his assertion that Romney suggested his Massachusetts healthcare plan should be a model for the nation in his book, No Apologies, before taking it out of a later edition. Perry’s instinct, he said, is “that is what he thinks in his heart.” The line was removed from the book, but Politifiact, a fact-checking site, rate Perry’s claim “mostly false.”
Perry will soon embark on a 14-day bus tour in the state, using the opportunity for “retail politics” to argue that he is the most consistent and reliably conservative candidate in the race.
During a short stump speech in the crowded coffee shop—the 100 or so people gathered packed the small venue from wall to wall—Perry played up his anti-Washington message and sympathized with the crowd about being upset with government spending.
“Only an outsider has the courage to stand up and go into Washington DC and say we are not going to take this anymore and to use the veto pen and the bully pulpit and the power of the presidency of the United States to get it back into the hands of the American people,” Perry told the crowd. “That is my promise to you.”
Even as he criticized Romney, the Texas governor himself tried to downplay a recent gaffe he made during a meeting with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register in which he said there were eight Supreme Court justices and couldn’t recall Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s name. The campaign later told the Register that the governor was referring to an 8-to-1 court decision about bible reading in school called Abington School District v. Schempp. But the governor also admitted on Fox News Sunday that he simply doesn’t know the names of all nine justices.
A mere 24 hours after Saturday night's debate, Perry's campaign had already turned Romney's offer of a $10,000 bet into a web spot for the campaign.
"Mitt Romney has already placed that bet. Romneycare, a losing bet for him" reads text on the screen, interspersed with footage from the debate.
Perry's voice is laid over images of Americana, saying, "people of this country really want to get America back on track."
At the moment, the spot does not include the requisite message approval line that would greenlight it as a TV ad, and the campaign did not immediately respond to questions about whether they had plans to put it on the air.