In a speech to a Republican group in St. Petersburg on Saturday, Anita Perry, wife of GOP presidential front-runner Rick Perry, defended her husband's stance on Social Security — an area where Mitt Romney has accused him of backing off earlier controversial comments.
"He does not back down in the face of criticism. He rejects weathervane politics … When he stakes his ground, he holds it," including on Social Security, she said.
Anita Perry delivered a humorous, folksy speech to about 450 Republicans at a fundraising dinner for the Pinellas County Republican Party, including descriptions of the small Texas towns where they both were raised.
"There were 13 people in his graduating class" in high school, she said of her husband growing up in Paint Creek. "He was the highest-ranking boy."
In his book "Fed Up!" and elsewhere, Perry called Social Security "a Ponzi scheme" and questioned its constitutionality, saying the federal government shouldn't run a pension program and suggesting it should be left to the states.
Without retracting those comments, Perry now says only that the program needs to be reformed.
"I've known him since I was 6 years old," Anita Perry said. "He has not backed down an inch from saying Social Security's financing is broken. It must be reformed," she said.
Earlier Saturday, Anita Perry attended a Republican gathering at Ron's Barbecue in Hudson that included delegates to next weekend's Presidency 5 Republican Party convention and straw poll.
All of the GOP presidential candidates will attend the event, but Perry appears to be working hardest at recruiting delegates for the poll, which could significantly affect the outcome of the race.
One delegate and Perry backer, Rachel O'Connor of Wesley Chapel, a candidate for county commission in Pasco's District 1, said she thinks Perry is leading among Pasco delegates, but added, "I think a lot of them are undecided and waiting to see them in person in Orlando."
County party official Bill Bunting, also for Perry, gave a more optimistic estimate, saying he thinks half of Pasco's 86 delegates are for Perry.