SPENCER, Iowa - As he discussed his plans on Saturday to remake Washington, Rick Perry pledged that he would put forward a budget that cut $5 trillion from the one President Obama has offered, in part by eliminating or downsizing congressional agencies.
That's a bit of a tall order. Obama's proposed FY2012 budget is $3.7 trillion.
After reporters began to note the error, Perry's campaign sent around a statement saying that the governor was actually referring to a cumulative $5 trillion difference over the budgets he would submit from FY2014 to FY2020, a total of seven fiscal years.
"He would accomplish this by getting spending as a percentage of GDP down to 18 percent by 2020," Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for the governor, wrote.
Perry continued to take aim at rivals Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul in Iowa on Saturday, this time for their support of earmarks, which the Texas governor has pledged to veto.
"Newt was the originator of earmarks back in the '90s. If there was a granddaddy of earmarks he would be it," Perry told the crowd of about 50 people gathered in a local Italian restaurant. "Dr. Paul, he's still birthing earmarks," he said, a play on Paul's profession as an OB-GYN.
Gingrich in particular, Perry said, used to encourage members of his party to add earmarks to legislation if they were worried about winning an upcoming election.
"I think Americans are tired of that kind of special interest spending. They just want to see someone who will stand up and say what we need is someone that'll walk into Washington, D.C. and just say no to all this special interest funding that we're seeing in D.C. and call and end to it."
It's a pledge that fits well into his anti-Washington narrative but is somewhat hollow, since both parties have agreed to end earmarks already.
Paul has said he has never voted for legislation that includes earmarks, but argued that he does apply for the special-interest funds to support projects in his state and district. Though Gingrich has assailed Democrats for earmarking, the practice snowballed during his tenure as House speaker.
The audience brought up a few of Perry's current and former rivals. To one man who asked whether he would consider making Herman Cain his Secretary of Defense - a position Cain has said before he would like to take on - Perry said it was a bit early to be deciding on his Cabinet. Still, Perry said Cain "has all the characteristics of the type of people I'd bring forward."
Another man who saw Rep. Michele Bachmann at an event earlier that day asked if Perry might be comfortable with a female vice president. "I have no problem with that at all," Perry said.
Earlier in the day, Perry made an unannounced stop at a coffee shop in Spencer, Iowa, where he had coffee with a group of about 10 seniors and shook hands. One long conversation he had revolved around the feral hog population in Texas, which has grown dramatically and started to infiltrate urban areas.
At a later stop at a coffee shop in Clear Lake, Perry continued his attacks on Gingrich and Paul. "You can't stand up and say you're going to be a fiscal conservative and then you're asking for special treatment for your district and then vote against the bill," he said in reference to Paul. "You can't have your cake and eat it too, Dr. Paul, either you're going to be a fiscal conservative or you're not."
On a day in which Gingrich called for a greater discussion of reining in judicial activism, Perry also called Supreme Court judges "legislators in robes that masquerade as Supreme Court judges."
To honor Perry's visit, the Cabin Coffee Shop made a special mix of beans to sell to the audience called the "Freedom & Liberty blend" -- the same name that adorns Perry's cowboy boots. The description on the bag: rich and smooth, medium bodied, sparkling acidity, with smoky undertones.