AMES, IOWA -- The morning after Mitt Romney challenged Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet, the Texas governor slammed Romney's casual but pricey wager and suggested the sum is merely "pocket change" for his wealthy rival.
"Having an extra ten thousand that you would throw down on a bet just seems very out of the ordinary," Perry told a New York Times reporter after a crowded event in an Ames diner.
"I would suggest to you that ten thousand dollars is pocket change for Mitt," he added
The "pocket change" remark offered a sharp new nettle on Perry's earlier criticism of Romney in an interview with Fox News Sunday, in which he dubbed the former Massachusetts governor "a little out of touch with the normal Iowa citizen." .
Perry's comments came after he held a fire-marshall-capacity event at the Cafe Diem diner in Ames. An otherwise enthusiastic reception was marred by heckling after Perry left the stage, as protestors loudly yelled "why do you hate gay people so much?" and "go back to Texas!" The governor ignored the comments as the crowd booed dissenters down.
But the charge of anti-gay rhetoric offers a glimpse into the risks of Perry's explicit pitch to social conservatives in Iowa. The campaign has faced criticism for a recent ad that takes aim at gay soldiers serving openly in the United States military.
After stumbling badly in early debates, Perry has dramatically steered his political pitch to one focused on values, Christian faith, and the current White House's "war on religion."
The Tenth Amendment- defending governor, for example, promised on Sunday to fight for a constitutional amendment that "would allow our children to pray in school any time that they would like"
And Perry's faith-based message isn't just over the airwaves.
Immediately after appearing on Fox, he ventured to Waukee megachurch Point of Grace, where he made an explicit plea for worshippers to get involved in the political process.
"I happen to think that people of faith biblically are charged to go and be engaged in that debate," he said during one of two services he attended at the stadium-seating style prayer center.
Perry's message to Christians: Look for a man with a "deep rudder" of values, not one with "all the answers."
It's a humble message from a man whose flubs have dogged him since early in the campaign. Despite his potential upswing after Romney's damaging "bet," those mistakes continue to haunt the Texan governor.
Perry, who last night offered one of the strongest debate performances of his presidential campaign, was asked Sunday morning in an interview to explain his recent bungling of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's name as well as the number of judges who sit on the high court.
"Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court justices," he said on FOX. "I don't know how eight came out of my mouth. But the fact is, I can't tell you, I don't have memorized all of the Supreme Court judges."