Rick Perry: We Don’t Need ‘Obama Lite’

In his first televised interview since announcing his candidacy, Texas Gov. Rick Perry found a new way to categorize his Republican rivals who bear similarities to President Obama or the president’s policies – “Obama lite.”

“We don’t need to nominate Obama lite. We don’t need to nominate someone who is going to blur the lines between President Obama and our nominee,” Perry said in an interview on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.”

Perry highlighted the link between Mitt Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts and the national plan developed by President Obama in 2010.

“I think it’s important that we have a clear distinction between any of the candidates,” Perry said, “and when you take a look at what Mitt did from the standpoint of Romneycare in Massachusetts, you’re going to have a hard time finding a difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. That’s just the facts and there’s no way around it. The facts are the facts.”

Romney and Perry engaged in a back-and-forth Wednesday on Social Security, with Perry arguing Romney’s tactics are an attempt to “scare the senior citizens” and are “irresponsible.”

“That’s the old tactic that the Democrats used back through the years to try to scare the senior citizens,” Perry said. “If anyone on that stage that’s a Republican and wants to be a Republican nominee is trying to scare our seniors with this issue – that somehow or another I’m going to do away with Social Security, that’s just not appropriate. It’s irresponsible.”

Perry has yet to offer a plan for reforming Social Security, but tonight he outlined some potential starting points for discussions on how to fix the system – raising the retirement age, allowing younger people to hold private-sector accounts managing their own funds, and means testing.

“You can have this conversation,” he said. “It no longer is that third rail that no one can talk about. As a matter of fact, I think Americans appreciate people being honest and up front with them about Social Security.”

Perry has taken heat for his acceptance of some stimulus money in his state. But the Texas governor justified his decision to accept some stimulus funds by arguing that the money originated from the people.

“We sent a lot of money to Washington, so the fact is to not take dollars that we send to Washington, D.C., would not have been in the best interest of people in the state of Texas,” Perry said. “The purity of the notion that you’re just not going to take any money- If they’ll make the trade, if we don’t have to send any up there, then we’ve got a deal.”

The Texas governor, who has received the brunt of attacks from his Republican rivals in recent debates, said his years as Texas governor have prepared him for the criticism and accusations launched by his opponents.

“I’ve been doing this for a pretty good spell,” he said. “Running three times in Texas for governor, we’ve caught a lot of javelins.”