INDIAN LAND, S.C . — Banking on South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary to "give us our second wind," Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday likened front runner Mitt Romney and Bain Capital, the private equity firm he used to run, to "vultures" that swooped in to buy and sell companies, leaving behind many unemployed workers with nothing.
"I will suggest they're just vultures," Perry told seniors in upscale Sun City, referring to Wall Street firms that seek pay-day bonanzas by taking over vulnerable companies. "They're vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb, waiting for a company to get sick. And then they swoop in, they eat the carcass, they leave with and they leave the skeleton."
Later, he confirmed to reporters that he included Bain Capital in the vulture category.
In a campaign swing through York County, Perry also took aim at former Sen. Rick Santorum, casting the virtual co-winner with Romney of the Iowa caucuses as a lover of pork barrel.
"You voted for the 'Bridge to Nowhere,'" he said about Santorum, referring to a notorious pork project in Alaska. "You voted for the Montana Sheep Institute and for a rain forest in Iowa."
Speaking at a crowded Kinch's diner in downtown Rock Hill, Perry also dismissed his likely last place finish in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, which he skipped to mount a last stand in the more conservative South Carolina, site of the first-in-the-South primary.
"These other states winnow candidates down," Perry said about Iowa and New Hampshire. "They kind of start separating the wheat from the chaff."
But in South Carolina, which has anointed every eventual GOP nominee since 1980, voters "pick presidents."
Though he's far back in the back in the latest S.C. polls, Perry said he is fighting to win the state.
And in an answer to one voter Tuesday, who wondered if the Texas governor would be interested in taking the No. 2 slot on the 2012 GOP ticket, Perry recalled what another Texan - John Nance Garner, also known as "Cactus Jack" - had said about being vice president under Franklin Roosevelt.
The job, Perry said, quoting Garner, is no better than "a bucket of warm spit."
"Being governor of Texas is an incredible job," Perry told the crowd. "I'm interested in being the president of the United States."
At each stop, Perry signed off, like so many Southern politicians do, by asking his audiences to vote for him.
"If you have my back on the (Jan.) 21st," he said, "I can guarantee I'll have your back in Washington, D.C., for four years."