BLYTHEWOOD, SC -- The vulture flies no more.
Gov. Rick Perry's address to about 40 diners at famed Southern cookin' joint Lizards Thicket Thursday offered a healthy helping of anti-Obama rhetoric with a side of swipes at the "insiders" who are running for the presidency.
But his least appetizing metaphor for Mitt Romney -- one in which he graphically compared Romney's former company Bain Capital to a vulture picking at the carcasses of damaged companies -- had vanished from his speech.
The Texas governor first unveiled the "vulture capitalism" term on Tuesday, echoing a similar line of attack to Newt Gingrich has used against the former Massachusetts governor.
Perry used the term three times in one speech yesterday but then appeared to abruptly drop it during later campaign stops.
The wave of Bain attacks has subsided as conservative commentators ripped Perry for being "anti-free-market" and providing fodder for Democratic critics of Romney, should the presumed frontrunner become the GOP's nominee.
In Blythewood, he began a sentence that sounded like a possible wind-up to a defense against those pundits.
"I'm a capitalist and I believe in the profit motive, but there is a point in time where we have to say 'Wait a minute, what is going on here?'" he began.
But instead of launching into the story of workers in Gaffney, SC laid off at the hands of Bain -- a staple for the last few days in South Carolina -- he dinged the US Treasury for its cozy relationships with Wall Street banks, a months-old critique.
Perry's tempered criticism comes against the backdrop of a defection by a top Perry backer, Barry Wynn, to Romney's campaign. Wynn told the Associated Press that the Texas governor's recent attacks on Romney's record at Bain had spurred his decision to switch sides in the primary.
Asked about the "vulture" capitalism swipe on a Fox News interview Thursday, Perry did not disavow the attack outright but implied that his examination of Bain's record could help voters determine if Romney is a "flawed candidate" before the general election.
"The fact is, this process is about winnowing out individuals and testing whether or not they're a flawed candidate or not," he said. "And I will tell you when people can point to where you made a quick profit and kicked people out of their jobs, that is an issue that has got to be addressed."