ORLANDO -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked a ballroom full of enthusiastic Republican activists and voters Thursday to pray for him and give him their vote, but also said they should pray that God shows President Obama that he is misguided.
The supplication he told them to offer up for the president was that God would "open his eyes" -- and came after he had lambasted Obama for presiding over a "nanny-state."
"As a governor who's made a great deal of decisions with consequences over the years, I couldn't have done so without being driven to my knees on many occasions. As I campaign for president, I not only ask you for your vote and your support, I ask you for your prayers," Perry said. "I ask you to pray for our country. I ask you to pray for our president, to give him wisdom, to open his eyes."
Perry was speaking to a "Faith and Freedom" rally a few hours before an important debate between him and the other Republican presidential candidates here. And his call to pray for Obama came after he ran through a list of the administration's policies and criticized them.
"Last month the Obama administration, they had the audacity to call food stamps a stimulus," Perry said. "Food stamps are a symptom of the problem, Mr. President, they're not the solution. And the problem is too many Americans can't find work today because of this administration's big government policies."
"The problem with the liberals is they think there is a government answer to every problem, and they think Washington knows best, even when the Constitution is very clear about what belongs to the states," Perry said.
He then criticized Obama's "Race to the Top" program, which rewarded a few state school systems for reform innovations with millions in grant money. Perry did not see this as creating competition among school systems to improve performance, and pointed out that the money being awarded came out of the taxpayer's pocket to begin with.
"It is wrong for the federal government to take over local schools," he said, calling for the states to have more decision-making power in education.
Moments after his call for voters to pray that Obama be shown the error of his policies, however, Perry said that God is not on the side of any political party.
"And I ask for the prayers for the health and the healing of a country that will transcend party politics, as does our creator, whose purposes and ways cannot be coopted by any political party," Perry said. He then quoted former President Abraham Lincoln: "My concern is not whether God is on my side. My greatest concern is to be on God's side." The crowd of a few thousand rose and cheered.