(Steve Helber / Associated…)
Reporting from Richmond, Va. — Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry declared that the Democratic Party is "on the ropes" after twin losses in House special elections on Tuesday.
The Republican victories in New York and Nevada "sent signals that President Obama will be a one-term president," the Texas governor told 1,000 Virginians at a state party fundraising luncheon in Richmond, the state capital.
Afterward, Perry took issue with GOP rival Michele Bachmann's suggestion this week that the HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation.
Bachmann, who contends that the vaccine may be highly dangerous, drew that link as part of her attack on Perry over his 2007 executive order requiring all sixth-grade girls in Texas to get the vaccine.
"I think that was a statement that [had] no truth in and no basis in fact," Perry told reporters.
The governor, whose health mandate was overturned by the Texas legislature, said again that he "made a mistake in the way that I took this forward." He acknowledged that his order had gone too far and said the vaccination policy "should have had an opt-in instead of an opt-out."
The GOP front-runner's record on the issue, and his handling of the topic in a televised debate Monday evening, has prompted criticism from several rivals and from social conservatives.
Perry, who spoke about his Christian faith Wednesday morning at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., was holding fundraising meetings in Virginia on Wednesday afternoon and an evening dinner in New York with Donald Trump.
During brief remarks at the state party event, Perry said the GOP's pickup Tuesday of a historically Democratic House seat in New York City is fresh evidence that "the voters are getting the message."
The Texas governor, enthusiastically received by the Virginia Republicans at the Greater Richmond Convention Center event, also said Republicans need to choose "a nominee who draws a clear and distinct contrast" with President Obama.
Perry said afterward that he presents a clearer contrast with Obama than Mitt Romney, his main rival for the nomination. Contrasting job growth in Texas with his rival's record in Massachusetts, Perry described Romney's job-creation performance as governor as "substantially less than quality work. If Americans' big issue is getting back to work, I'm the guy that's got the record of doing that."
The Texas governor told reporters the Republican triumph in this week's special elections "tells you that this job-killing, tax-raising, regulatory-burdensome administration is headed down the wrong road." He added: "Another half a trillion dollars of stimulus is not going to do anything except make Americans even stronger in their support of Republicans who want to get America working again."