OKATIE, S.C. - Just hours after Rick Perry indicated he was going to try to stay out of the crossfire of sniping between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, his campaign released a television ad hitting both of them for supporting health care mandates.
(Watch the ad at left.)
"We don't want government-mandated health care," a narrator says. "Yet Newt Gingrich supports it. And Mitt Romney? He put it into law in Massachusetts." The narrator also says Obama "forced it on the entire nation."
"I won't let the big-government liberals ruin this country," says Perry, on screen.
Earlier today, when asked about the recent fighting between the former House Speaker and the former Massachusetts Governor, Perry said, "I'll let those two get in the ring and go at it, I'll be out campaigning, shaking hands and asking people to support me."
The Texas governor calls himself an "outsider who will repeal Obamacare" in the ad, though on the campaign trail he pledges to erase as much of the law as he can with executive order. But in an interview with three conservative attorneys general last weekend, he struggled to articulate his legal prerogative to wipe out legislation with that method.
His villain of late has been Washington, D.C. and especially President Obama, something that has taken time away from the attacks on Romney that marked the earlier part of his presidential bid. Now, he's reviving attacks on his rivals as he launches into a campaigning sprint that will take him on a 14-day bus tour across Iowa. He's also been saturating the state with a $1.2 million ad buy that's heavily geared toward drumming up support among Iowa's influential evangelical voting bloc.
One ad in particular that is critical of gay men and women serving openly in the military caused some strife within the campaign. The ad features Perry saying, "You don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school."
As first reported by the Huffington Post, the word prompted Perry's top pollster, Tony Fabrizio to email strategist Nelson Warfield saying the ad was "nuts." Warfield, who works on messaging strategy for the campaign, had overseen creation of the ad from polling to production. A source within the campaign confirmed the exchange to CBS News and National Journal.
"We have a group of strong, experienced folks who have strong opinions, and they are not always in concert but they're quickly resolved by the campaign leadership and the governor," said communications director Ray Sullivan. "The campaign strongly supports the spot, thinks it's a good spot."
Sullivan also said he was not concerned about the ad turning off voters who disagree with its message. "We're pleased with the ad, and it is an accurate portrayal of the governor's faith and his beliefs and it is speaking to an important segment of the population especially Iowa republicans," he said.
Perry heads back to Iowa this weekend after a day of campaigning in South Carolina. Polls have shown him far behind in the Hawkeye State, with a recent CNN/Time/ORC survey showing him in fourth place behind Gingrich, Romney and Ron Paul with 9 percent.