By KASIE HUNT AND SHANNON MCCAFFREY, ASSOCIATED PRESS
(AP) ATLANTA — In his first domestic policy speech as a presidential candidate, Rick Perry outlined his record as Texas governor Friday and accused rival Mitt Romney of governing Massachusetts the same way President Barack Obama governs the country.
In a speech at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, Perry discussed his record on health care and the environment. But he offered few policy proposals, instead focusing on his record as Texas governor for 10 years, criticizing Obama, hitting Romney's health care law and opening a more aggressive line of attack on Romney's record on climate change.
"As Republican voters decide who is best suited to lead this country in a new direction by stopping the spending spree and scrapping Obamacare, I am confident they will choose a nominee who has governed on conservative principles, not one whose health care policies paved the way for Obamacare," Perry said.
Perry contrasted Romney's plan with the medical malpractice reform he signed as governor of Texas, and argued that both Romney and Obama have governed more liberally than he has.
"What we are seeing in America today is a conservative awakening, a revival born out of a deep concern that liberals have used the machinery of the federal government to impose a nanny state that limits our freedom and that targets free enterprise," he said.
"I knew when I got into this race I would have my hands full fighting President Obama's big government agenda. I just didn't think it would be in the Republican primary," Perry added.
The address signals that Perry plans to continue aggressively attacking his chief rival even as he faces some stumbling blocks in his own campaign. After a shaky debate performance, Perry admitted that he used "inappropriate" language when he called Republican rivals "heartless." Perry was defending a Texas law that allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state universities if they meet certain criteria.
As part of the offensive, Perry turned to Romney's environmental record.
"In Texas, we've cleaned the air while creating jobs and adding millions in population. Another state – Massachusetts – was among the first states to implement its own cap-and-trade program which included limits on carbon emissions for power plants," Perry said in his speech.
Texas, home to the nation's oil and gas industry, has taken significant steps to clean its air in recent years, offering tax breaks and other incentives to companies that install expensive pollution controlling technology. But Texas still leads the nation in greenhouse gas emissions.
Perry has fought EPA rules and regulations, insisting the agency is overreaching and meddles in state affairs. The state has challenged in court several new EPA regulations aimed at forcing heavy industry to take pollution-controlling measures.
Perry also accused Romney of relying on environmental advisers who went on to work in the Obama administration. Environmental Protection Agency official Gina McCarthy, who works on clean air regulations, helped Massachusetts develop a climate plan when Romney served as governor. McCarthy was appointed by Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis and worked in state government for decades before moving to the EPA.
The Romney campaign accused Perry of misrepresenting the former Massachusetts governor's position. "Rick Perry once again has run into problems with the truth," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
Romney never signed a cap-and-trade plan for Massachusetts, though he did encourage state efforts to protect the environment. Massachusetts participated in discussions about a Northeastern regional cap-and-trade system while Romney was governor, but Romney decided not to join it.
Perry's speech comes as the presidential candidates face an important fundraising deadline Friday in the latest quarter of the campaign cycle.
Later Friday, Perry will head to New Hampshire for a town hall style meeting with voters.