Rick Perry Pivots to ‘Romneycare’

 After a shaky debate performance Thursday evening, Gov. Rick Perry tried to regain his momentum Friday by arguing that his economic record in Texas and Romney’s health care record in Massachusetts made up for any deficiencies in Perry’s debate performance.

“It’s not who is the slickest candidate or the smoothest debater that we need to elect. We need to elect the candidate with the best record and the best vision for this country,” Perry said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla..

He began by attacking President Obama  but  spent most of his speech attacking former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney for his Massachusetts health care plan. “The model for socialized medicine has already been tried, and it failed not just in Western Europe but in Massachusetts,” Perry said. “Government mandated, government-run health care costs too much. It kills too many jobs. It gets in between you and your doctor whether it’s passed in Massachusetts or Washington, D.C.”

Perry hit Obama for what he said was a higher-cost prescription drug program for veterans, and for expanding government bureaucracy and taxing Americans at too high a rate. “Our president, the great promiser of hope and change, he has delivered neither. What he’s delivered Americans don’t want.”

Perry pointed to the recent Justice Department Inspector General report, which found the Justice Department spent $16 on muffins at agency conferences. “You know that you want to be in the muffin business, don’t you? Don’t tell me there’s not waste to be cut. Don’t ask us for more of our money Mr. President. We can’t afford four more years of high unemployment, of the failed stimulus, of the record debt , the misplaced priorities. It’s time for a change. When I say change, I’m not talking about the rhetoric of change. I’m talking about the record of change.”

Harlan Mason, a Republican from Florida’s St. John’s County, said Perry’s speech to the CPAC gathering was “great” and “inspiring” but that “he has to explain himself further” on immigration.

“Republicans are having difficulty with his immigration positions,” Mason said. Perry didn’t venture into  immigration  in his CPAC speech.

Romney tried to capitalize on Perry’s comments last night that suggested people who were against in-state tuition for illegal immigrants didn’t “have a heart.”

“I think if you’re opposed to illegal immigration it doesn’t mean you don’t have a heart. It means you have a heart and a brain,” Romney said at CPAC earlier Friday morning.

April, a Republican from Tampa who was attending CPAC event,  said last night’s debate made it clear that Perry has a “learning curve,” not that she was particularly patient for him to get over it. Perry, she said, “has to hit the ground running, or don’t run at all.”

ABC News’ Amy Walter contributed to this report.


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