A reinvigorated Michele Bachmann continued her assault on Rick Perry on Tuesday morning, accusing the Texas governor and rival GOP presidential candidate of “crony capitalism” in connection with his state's program requiring the vaccination of young girls against human papillomavirus.
She had some help from Sarah Palin, who told Fox News that she supported Bachmann’s efforts
Bachmann’s criticism of Perry on Monday night at the CNN/Tea Party Express GOP presidential debate provided one of the debate’s true fiery moments. The Minnesota congresswoman suggested that ties between Perry’s former chief of staff and Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, was the motive behind Perry’s program.
She returned to that line of attack on NBC’s "Today" show. “It’s very clear that crony capitalism could have likely been the cause” of the HPV vaccination program. She ripped Perry for deciding to implement the program through a 2007 executive order. (Watch video below.)
“This is an issue that could have gone before the Legislature,” Bachmann said. “The governor chose by himself unilaterally to sign an executive order to put through the requirement that all innocent little 12-year-old girls or 11-year-old girls in state of Texas would be forced by the government to take an injection of what potentially could be a very dangerous drug.”
At Monday’s debate, Perry said the program had been a mistake, but he had erred on the side of trying to protect girls against deadly cervical cancer. He bristled at Bachmann’s suggestion that contributions by Merck to his campaign were a factor.
“If you think I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended,” Perry said.
“Well, I'm offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn't have a choice," replied Bachmann.
For Bachmann, the HPV issue has resonance in multiple ways. It helps align her with social conservatives who were unhappy with Perry’s program -- and it allows her to accuse Perry of practicing big-government policies, which strikes a chord with the "tea party".
“You can’t abuse executive authority with executive orders,” Bachmann said on "Today."
In the meantime, Palin appeared on Fox News Channel’s “On the Record” Monday evening after the debate and gave Bachmann high marks for going after Perry on the issue.
“Fighting the crony capitalism is a tough thing to do within in your own party,” Palin said. “You have to go up against the big guns, and they will try to destroy you when you call them out on the mistakes they have made.”
Potentially, Palin said, Bachmann will get “crucified” by some in the GOP for her criticism.
Of course, there is seemingly little love lost now between Palin and Perry. The former Alaska governor was critical of Perry’s decision to run for president after maintaining he wouldn’t. And on the Fox News program, she seemed to be as intent on detailing her own credentials as a reformer in Alaska as praising Bachmann.
By most accounts, Perry turned in a rocky performance Monday night, taking hits not only on the HPV issue but on his views on Social Security and in-state college tuition for the children of undocumented workers.
If Palin has been watching and waiting for Perry to stumble, Monday evening may have handed her an opportunity. In the meantime, Bachmann's campaign, which looked to be on the ropes heading into the debate, would seem to have new life -- at least this week. There's yet another debate next week in Orlando.