The second key moment in Monday night's GOP debate, as it relates to Rick Perry's fortunes, came when Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) went after the Texas governor.
Paul was asked if Perry should get credit for Texas' job growth. Not only did Paul say no, he said that under Perry, his taxes have doubled, the state's debt has tripled, and 170,000 of the state's new jobs were government jobs.
"I'm a taxpayer there," Paul said. "My taxes have gone up. Our taxes have doubled since he took office. Our debt has gone up nearly triple. So no -- and 170,000 of the jobs were government jobs. So I would put a little damper on this, but I don't want to offend the governor because he might raise my taxes or something."
Perry said that people are coming to Texas "because there's a land of freedom in America -- freedom from over-taxation, freedom from over-litigation and freedom from over-regulation."
That came moments after Romney had gotten in a nice jab at Perry, saying that under the previous two governors, Democrat Ann Richards and Republican George W. Bush, job growth per year was higher: 2.5 percent for Richards, 3.5 percent for Bush and 1 percent for Perry.
"I think the governor would agree with me that if you're dealt four aces, that doesn't make you necessarily a great poker player," Romney said. "And the four aces that are terrific aces -- the ones the nation should learn from -- are the ones I described: zero income tax, low regulation, right to work state, oil in the ground and Republican legislature. Those things are terrific."
"You were doing pretty good until you got to talking poker," Perry replied.
Perry is looking good overall, but the shots from Paul will bloody him a little. Maybe a reason why Perry should have avoided going after the Texas congressman in the last debate.
A rivalry has been brewing between the two lone-star state candidates over the past few weeks.
Paul called Perry "Al Gore's Texas cheerleader" for once working to help elect the Democrat. Perry's team, in turn, is branding Paul a turncoat for once leaving the GOP.
The AP has more:
Last week, Paul likened Perry to a "candidate of the week" and predicted Perry's poll numbers would fall quickly once voters got to know him better. He told The Associated Press, "Texas has had a lot of changes in these last eight years, not exactly positive either."
This week, Paul rolled out a TV ad suggesting that Perry wants to unravel the Reagan legacy. The ad highlighted Paul's own endorsement of Reagan's unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination in 1976 and Perry's work on then-Sen. Al Gore's unsuccessful presidential bid in 1988.
The ad said: "Rick Perry helped lead Al Gore's campaign to undo the Reagan revolution, fighting to elect Al Gore president of the United States. Now, America must decide who to trust: Al Gore's Texas cheerleader or the one who stood with Reagan."
Perry was a Democrat serving in the state legislature at the time. He switched parties in 1989 and successfully ran for state agriculture commissioner as a Republican.
Paul's ad drew a rebuke from Perry's campaign, which said in a statement, "Like President Reagan, Gov. Perry has cut taxes and freed employers from government regulations that kill jobs."
Perry aides also dug up and distributed Paul's 1987 letter of resignation from the Republican Party.
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