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Perry slams surging Santorum as a 'prolific earmarker'

 

WASHINGTON, Iowa -- In his first targeted attack against the recently surging Rick Santorum, Rick Perry on Thursday labeled the former Pennsylvania senator a "prolific earmarker" who "loaded up on Pennsylvania pork" during his time in Congress.

Appearing at a coffee shop in Washington, IA, the Texas governor took direct aim at his rival's spending record less than 24 hours after a new TIME/CNN/ORC Iowa poll showed Santorum jumping into third place, with Perry stalled at fifth among GOP contenders.

"Rick Santorum is a friend," he said. "I've got great respect for him, but when he talks about fiscal conservativism every now and then it kinda leaves me scratching my head, because he was a prolific earmarker."

"You know I love Iowa pork but I hate Washington pork," Perry said to laughter from the crowd of about 50. "And Sen. Santorum, he loaded up his bills with Pennsylvania pork. And he even voted for the Alaska Bridge to Nowhere."

Perry then read a quote from a Santorum appearance on Fox News in February 2009 in which the former senator said "I'm very proud of all of my earmarks... I will defend earmarks."

"Senator Santorum I'm going to give you that opportunity to defend your earmarks," Perry added. "Because earmarks are the gateway drug to the spending problem that they have in Washington DC."

A radio ad echoing the same critique hit Iowa airwaves this morning, according to the campaign.

While Perry previously has lumped Santorum with other candidates whose tenure in Washington make them 'insiders," today's attack is the first shot directed squarely at him alone.

The news of Perry's continued idling in Iowa polls yesterday raises further questions about whether or not the Texas governor will push on to South Carolina after the caucuses.

Asked by a reporter today if there's any caucus night scenario in which Perry doesn't continue the race, he responded "Well that's God's will. There might be an outcome that He decides that I wouldn't go on"

"Is God caucusing?" came the followup.

Perry, smiling, replied, "I'm pretty sure He will be.