ORLANDO, FL -- Just a little more than 12 hours after ending a shaky debate performance here, an energetic Texas Gov. Rick Perry defied critics who have speculated that his political skills on the national stage don't live up to the hype his front-runner status has garnered.
"As conservatives, we know that values and vision matter," Perry told the crowd at the CPAC meeting in Florida. "It's not who is the slickest candidate or the smoothest debater that we need to elect. We need to elect the candidate with the best record and the best vision for this country."
After bounding onto the stage and flashing hearty thumbs ups to a cheering crowd, Perry did not mention the verbal beating he took from competitors last night on the issue of Texas's granting of in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants.
But he did take another broad swipe at his top rival Mitt Romney for his support of a 2006 health-care law that included mandates.
"The model for socialized medicine has already been tried, and it failed. Not just in Western Europe, but in Massachusetts," he said of the legislation Romney signed into law.
Perry also accused President Obama of boosting medical costs for older veterans as a part of his deficit reduction plan.
"Mr. President, the men and women of our military who have served our country with courage every single day have already sacrificed enough," he said.