MItt Romney took a thinly veiled jab at his opponent Rick Perry at a speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) annual national convention in San Antonio today. "I am a conservative businessman," Romney said. "I have spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy. Career politicians got us into this mess and they simply don't know how to get us out."
Romney himself served four years as governor of Massachusetts, his only political office, though he did run unsuccessfully both for the Senate in 1994 and for president in 2008.
Perry, for his part, has been in elected office since 1985, first as a member of the state house of representatives. He was the Texas commissioner of agriculture for eight years and then lieutenant governor for just under a year before becoming governor after George W. Bush resigned to become president in late 2000. Perry has been governor for nearly 11 years, winning the office outright in 2002 and winning reelection in 2006 and 2010.
The "career politicians" line reflects what Toby Harnden reported would be the new plan of attack from the Romney camp, now that Perry has surged ahead in national polls:
Since Perry’s surge, the press and many Republicans have demanded that Romney take on his new rival, who has pushed Michele Bachmann, the winner of the Iowa Straw Poll and, like Perry, a strong social conservative with Tea Party support, into a distant third place.
Romney must be sorely tempted. His advisers plan to contrast Romney and his private sector experience of creating jobs with Perry, who has been an elected politician continuously since 1984. They will portray him as never really having had a job except as a government employee.
Later in his speech, Romney pivoted from his subtle attack on Perry to more direct criticism of Barack Obama. "I start with the fundamental conviction that America is the greatest nation in the history of the world and a force for good. And while we are not perfect, I will not apologize for America," he said. "Our president has taken a different approach. Have we ever had a president who was so eager to address the world with an apology on his lips and doubt in his heart? He seems truly confused not only about America’s past but our future."
Perry spoke yesterday at the VFW convention, having been invited not as a candidate for president but as the governor of the convention's host state of Texas. Read the text of his speech here.