Perry takes aim at Romney, Obama health care plans in Iowa speech

Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry greets local residents before speaking at a Greene County party fundraiser, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011, at the county fairgrounds in Jefferson, Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Rick Perry
Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry greets local residents before speaking at a Greene County party fundraiser, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011, at the county fairgrounds in Jefferson, Iowa.
AP Photo

JEFFERSON, Iowa - GOP frontrunner and Texas Gov. Rick Perry stepped up his criticism of Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney and President Obama over healthcare Thursday in a speech hat reflected the frontrunner's desire to move back to attack mode after playing defense all week on some of his own policy positions.

"Romneycare has driven private insurance costs up by $4.3 billion in Massachusetts," said Perry. Citing a study that showed Romney's healthcare program cost 18,000 jobs, Perry invited his audience of about 275 at the Greene County fairgrounds to "think about what Obamacare is going to do to this country." President Obama has called the Massachusetts health program that Romney enacted a model for his own.

At the GOP debate in Tampa on Monday, Perry fielded attacks from all of his fellow candidates, particularly over his positions on Social Security (he calls it a "Ponzi scheme"), immigration (he signed a law giving in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants), and a vaccine against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, which he mandated for all teenage girls in the state by executive order in 2007.

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None of those issues came up at the speech here. Instead, Perry focused on his record of job creation and criticized that of Romney. "One of my opponents in the Republican primary, while he was the governor of Massachusetts, their job creation in that state was 47th in the nation," Perry said.

The governor generally offers a more humorous description of Romney's job creation record, pointing out that he created more jobs in the private sector than he did as governor. His renewed seriousness may reflect the toll a week of attacks have taken on the visibly tired candidate.

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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