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Perry takes page from McCain playbook to hammer Santorum for earmarks

Every longshot presidential candidate comes to Iowa hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Most never come close, but GOP hopeful Rick Santorum hopes he can buck the odds. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

 

WATERLOO, Iowa -- This tune might sound familiar to John McCain.

Gov. Rick Perry continued to hammer rival Rick Santorum over his past support for earmarks Friday, taking a page from the 2008 GOP nominee's playbook by ridiculing individual pork barrel projects of dubious-sounding value.

"Just yesterday, once again, he defended his prolific pork barrel spending," Perry told over a hundred Iowans at Doughy Joey's pizza parlor in Waterloo. "So, Sen. Santorum, just to get a little more specific here, please tell me why you asked taxpayers to support the bridge to nowhere in Alaska.  Why did you ask the taxpayers of Iowa to support a teapot museum in North Carolina, an indoor rainforest in Iowa, and the Montana sheep institute?  Why were those important enough for you to vote for?"

Earmarks for seemingly trivial projects -- notably the $400 million Ketchikan bridge and the $50 million rainforest center in Coralville, IA (less than 100 miles from Perry's morning visit today) -- were frequent fodder for the anti-spending rhetoric that launched McCain to the 2008 Republican nomination.

Perry's attack continues the volley first deployed by the campaign yesterday in the candidate's appearances and in a new radio ad. In response, Santorum, who has surged above Perry in two recently released polls, defended his past earmarks but said that he would uphold the temporary moratorium placed on the practice in late 2010.

On Friday, Perry also slammed his rival for supporting debt ceiling increases during his time in Congress.

"You voted to raise the debt ceiling 8 times while he was in the United States Senate -- more than doubling the debt in this country from 4.1 trillion to 9 trillion dollars," he said of Santorum.  "And I got to ask you, how is that fiscally conservative?"

"Asking a Washington insider to stop runaway spending is like asking a bank robber to guard the vault," he added.

Perry's visit marked a return to the city where he launched his Iowa campaign in August, receiving a raucous welcome at a GOP dinner marked by a comparatively lukewarm reception for Ames Straw Poll winner and Waterloo native Michele Bachmann.

Standing virtually ignored at the back of the event as Perry was mobbed by crowds back then?

Rick Santorum.