WASHINGTON -- Rick Perry this week came under fire from both of the other two top candidates in the Republican presidential primary, and on Thursday afternoon he began returning fire.
The Texas governor's campaign hit back at a super PAC supporting Rep. Michele Bachmann, which released a 30-second TV ad claiming that spending in Texas has doubled during his time in office.
Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan called the ad "patently and provably false," and cited numbers showing that spending in the state budget that is paid for with state taxes and other state revenues (called general revenue) has gone down since Perry took office -- if the numbers are adjusted for population, which has risen dramatically in Texas, and for inflation.
Keep Conservatives United, the PAC that supports Bachmann, is not allowed by law to coordinate with the Minnesota politician's campaign. It said that Perry took spending from $45 billion to $90.4 billion between 2000 and 2010.
"Rick Perry doubled spending in a decade," says the ad. "And he’s supposed to be the Tea Party guy?” The ad will begin airing Monday in South Carolina, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Perry's campaign countered that general revenue spending was $55.7 billion for the 2000-2001 budget (Texas budgets in two-year periods) and is $80.5 billion for 2012-2013. The overall budget for 2012-2013 is $172.3 billion.
The Bachmann-affiliated PAC, which is not required to disclose its donors, drew its numbers from a Texas state comptroller's report issued a year ago. Perry's campaign took its numbers from the state legislature's budget board report in May.
The pushback from Perry's campaign is the latest sign that the primary is entering a new phase, in which Bachmann, who has been eclipsed by Perry since he entered the race, will go after the Texan from his right flank, while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will come after Perry with attacks on his overall record. Romney this week cast aspersions at "career politicians," a clear dig at Perry, who has held elected office since 1984.
The debate among GOP presidential candidates next Wednesday in California will be the first time Perry has taken part in such a forum since he became a candidate.