UPDATED with comments from Ron Paul
Texas Gov. Rick Perry stepped up his criticism of Ron Paul on Wednesday, calling him a “backbencher” in Congress who has been hypocritical by opposing federal spending but still asking for earmarks.
Paul responded later in the day that he supports the principle of earmarking but it’s the level of federal spending that’s objectionable.
The back and forth between the two Texans came as both were campaigning for president in Eastern Iowa on Wednesday.
Perry met with supporters and area Republicans at the Iowa Machine Shed restaurant in Davenport before a session with the Quad-City Times editorial board. He then headed to The Button Factory in Muscatine to meet with voters.
Accompanied by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Perry spoke on a wide range of topics with the editorial board. And he was direct when asked about Paul, who has been in Congress for 15 years and is leading some polls in Iowa less than two weeks before the Jan. 3 caucuses. Perry has been trailing, although his campaign says he’s picking up ground.
“He’s basically been a quiet backbencher,” Perry told the editorial board. “He’s really not had that big an impact in Congress. I always get a bit of humor. He asks for earmarks for his district and then votes against the bill. I always thought that to be a bit hypocritical.”
Perry, like many of the other Republican presidential hopefuls, also distanced himself from Paul’s foreign policy views.
“His foreign policy is, it’s very foreign to me,” he said.
In a debate last week, Paul said worries about Iran getting a nuclear weapon are overblown and the real danger is overreacting.
In recent days, Perry has directed criticism at Newt Gingrich and Paul over earmarks.
Paul, who was holding his own events in Eastern Iowa, including a town-hall meeting at the Quad Cities Waterfront Convention Center in Bettendorf, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon that, as a representative of his district, he advocates for his constituents.
“If they have a request to the government, I feel obligated to pass that request through,” he said.
“I believe in the principle of earmarking or designating all the spending, but I believe we’re so deeply in debt, from the very beginning I’ve voted against these appropriation bills because they’re so bad,” he said.
On other subjects, Perry defended a new television ad that faults Mitt Romney for his tenure at Bain Capital because “he made millions buying companies and laying off workers.”
The ad is similar to criticism Democrats have aimed at Romney. But Perry said the ad simply draws a contrast with Romney, as well as Gingrich, whom the spot faults for being a creature of K Street lobbyists.
“We’re not going to change Washington, D.C., with Wall Street insiders or Wall Street-structured individuals,” Perry said. “Wall Street insiders and Washington insiders are part of the reason that we find ourselves in this economic recession-slash-depression right now.”
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