Rick Perry Slips That He Believes Romney Will Be GOP Nominee?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a Sunday interview that his attacks on presidential candidate Mitt Romney will ultimately help the former Massachusetts governor when he becomes the Republican nominee, revealing that Perry may already assume that Romney will win the party’s nomination.

Perry was asked to defend his attacks on Romney's work as CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm. Perry has repeatedly criticized Romney's work, calling it instead “vulture capitalism.”

When asked to defend those attacks on ABC's “This Week,” Perry suggested that he was helping Romney because he will have to defend himself from similar attacks from the Obama campaign. This answer presumes, of course, that Romney will be the Republican nominee.

“It's better to be talking about it here in January in South Carolina than it is in September and October with the nominee. If it is a fatal flaw, then we need to talk about it now,” Perry said.

Perry was back on message after that comment as he compared his record of job creation as governor of Texas against Romney's job creation as a venture capitalist. He then made another statement, though, that presumed Romney will be the nominee.

“We're gonna get tested by Obama and his group, so, you better have all these answers done early. No surprises in September and October.”

The only way Republicans would “get tested” on the issue of Romney's tenure at Bain Capital is if Romney is the nominee.

Presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman have also criticized Romney's work at Bain Capital, and many conservatives have been sharply critical of these candidates for doing so. They see the attacks as a criticism of free enterprise and helping President Barack Obama's reelection efforts.

South Carolina Congressman Tim Scott said on NBC's “Meet the Press” Sunday, for instance, that if Romney becomes the nominee, the Obama campaign will run ads “talking about what Republicans said about our own nominee.”

He also accused Gingrich, Huntsman and Perry of “buying into a liberal storyline.”

Fox News host Mike Huckabee moderated a town hall style forum in South Carolina on Saturday. Undecided voters were provided the opportunity to ask questions.

“Participants in the private economy understand that creative destruction is a fact of life,” one of those voters said. “How do you defend the vilification of companies that are willing to put capital at risk in order to save failing companies?”

Gingrich argued that for a steel mill in Georgetown, S.C. owned by Bain Capital, “which was closed, capital wasn't put at risk, capital was drained out of that company.”

(Politico reported Friday that the Georgetown mill was bought by Bain after it went bankrupt and has never been closed for good. Bain Capital ran it successfully for seven years, Forbes reported, even during a period when many steel mills were closing.)

Some boos could be heard from the audience when Gingrich mentioned Romney by name, saying, “Gov. Romney ran saying he created 100,000 jobs in the private sector... ”

Gingrich also made a similar argument as Perry, implying that his criticism of Romney will help him if he becomes the nominee in the general election.

“I guarantee you, if we Republicans avoid it, our nominee in the Fall is not going to find that Obama avoids it at all.”

It is too early to tell whether Gingrich, Huntsman and Perry's attacks on Romney's business record has had an impact, or if the attacks have backfired and reflected more negatively on them. Gingrich and Perry's arguments that the criticism of Romney's business record will benefit Romney in the long run may be an attempt to place the attacks in a more positive light for voters who are angered by what is viewed as a liberal attack on Romney.

The South Carolina primary is Saturday, Jan. 21.

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