FORT MILL, S.C. --Rick Perry upped the ante on his criticism of rival Mitt Romney on Tuesday, likening the former Massachusetts governor's company, Bain Capital, to a band of "vultures" who wait to loot failing companies.
"They're vultures that sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick and then they swoop in, they eat the carcass," Perry told a group of about 200 voters here during a town hall here. "They leave with that and they leave the skeleton."
Talking to reporters after the event, the Texas governor suggested that Romney's record hasn't been assessed in the race, though other candidates recently have been joining that line of attack. He has talked about businesses in South Carolina that were restructured or shut down by Bain Capital, costing people jobs.
He fended off criticism of his own his attacks by people who say Bain Capital is just an example of the free market at work - a concept Perry champions in his stump speech, especially when talking about the energy industry. He disagreed with the premise of the criticism, saying that "greedy people" on Wall Street have been taking advantage of Americans.
"Instead of trying to work with them to try to find a way to keep the jobs and to get them back on their feet, it's all about how much money can we make, how quick can we make it, and then get out of town and find the next carcass to feed upon," he said.
While deflecting questions about how the Obama administration had failed to enforce existing regulations - Perry has argued those were sufficient to regulate the banking industry without the Dodd-Frank law that is intended to further rein in Wall Street firms -- he suggested that President Obama's chiefs of staff have been failing to properly control the banks because they have backgrounds on Wall Street.
"You got ask yourself when the last three chiefs of staff for this president came out of Wall Street, you don't think there's a little bit of inside dealing going on there, that their buddies on Wall Street are calling them up and saying, 'hey, how about let's not be quite that tough on those of us on Wall Street, we're just good old boys out here trying to make a buck,'" Perry mimicked.
That stance is at odds with that of other Republicans, who regularly accuse Obama of not being pro-business enough to revive the ailing economy.
While he did not name names, Perry was presumably referring to former chief of staff and current Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, current chief of staff Bill Daley, who announced his resignation on Monday, and Office of Management and Budget director Jack Lew, who will assume the post next. All three have banking industry experience; though Daley did not work on Wall Street he was on the executive committee of JP Morgan Chase & Co.
As he campaigns in South Carolina while his counterparts compete in New Hampshire, Perry displayed a significant amount of bravado about his chances in the first Southern primary.
"This isn't our Alamo. This is our San Jacinto," Perry said, referring to two mythical Texas battles fought in 1836, the first of which was won by Mexican soldiers and the second of which was won by Texans seeking independence from Mexico.
He is refusing to discuss what might happen if he doesn't win the state, telling reporters, "I'm not here to come in second."