Hours before they were set to take the stage at a Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Fla., Rick Perry and Mitt Romney spoke to social conservatives, taking jabs at each other without naming names.
Perry, who is aggressively campaigning in Florida this week, noted the importance of the Presidency 5 straw poll, harkening back to Ronald Reagan’s participation in the event.
“We’re going to be competing all across this state in the P5 straw poll that served a great purpose over the course of the year,” Perry said in a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “I think its really important for the candidates to understand that P5 matters. Ronald Reagan understood P5 matters in 1979.”
Most of the candidates, including Romney, have said they’re not actively participating in the straw poll this weekend.
The Perry campaign launched attacks on Romney today, sending out statements hitting the former Massachusetts governor for comments he made Wednesday in Florida suggesting he was a part of the “middle class” and linking Romney’s position on education funding to President Obama, a point he previewed in his speech.
“President Obama’s Race to the Top program, it asks states to agree to federal education standards that have not been written yet,” Perry said. “It is wrong for the federal government to take over local schools.”
While Romney didn’t go after Perry by name, he made several veiled references to the Texas governor and current GOP front runner.
“There are plenty of people running for president who are politicians — nothing wrong with that,” said Romney. “But I think it helps to have someone who has had a job to help create jobs for the American people.”
“For too many years, politicians have won elections by promising more and more free stuff, and that’s not the truth,” he said. “Americans want freedom but they don’t want free stuff. They want the truth.”
Both Perry and Romney’s wives joined the candidates at the event. Ann Romney introduced her husband prior to his speech, voicing the couple’s love of America, and Anita Perry stood at her husband’s side as he declared his love for the woman he courted 45 years ago.