Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry called Donald Trump's politics "toxic" and his 2016 candidacy a "cancer" on conservatism Wednesday. The comments represented the strongest condemnation yet of the 2016 front-runner from any of his Republican rivals.
Perry's criticisms came during remarks at the Opportunity and Freedom PAC forum in Washington, D.C., and they are the culmination of an increasingly bitter and personal spat between the two candidates.
"He is without substance when one scratches below the surface. He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: A toxic mix of demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued," Perry said. "Let no one be mistaken — Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded."
The Texas Republican went on to call out Trump for "demonizing Mexican-Americans for political sport." Ever since Trump announced his candidacy for president last month, he has been under fire for claiming that Mexico sends drug dealers and "rapists" illegally across their border into the United States. "He scapegoats Hispanics to appeal to our worst instincts, when we need a president who appeals to our best," Perry said. The former governor's rebuke of Trump could be interpreted as an olive branch to Latino voters, who Perry has had experience wooing in Texas. Both internal and external polling has reached the conclusion that the Latino demographic will be crucial to a 2016 general election victory for Republicans.
Perry also linked Trump to Democrats, who he has supported with donations in the past, claiming that the real estate mogul backs "socialized medicine, the stimulus package and Hillary Clinton." He warned his fellow Republicans, who according to recent polls seem to be hopping on the Trump bandwagon, to "beware of false prophets."
This latest broadside from Perry follows an earlier call from Trump to drop out of the 2016 race because of his controversial remarks regarding Sen. John McCain's war record. Trump initially said last week that McCain was not a war hero only to backtrack and say "perhaps" he was. "This is the embodiment of duty, honor, country," Perry said of McCain. "Mr. Trump does not know the meaning of those words."
Meanwhile Trump, who has made illegal immigration one of the focal points of his candidacy, repeatedly hammered Perry for his handling of illegal immigration during his time as governor. “He put glasses on so people will think he’s smart. It just doesn’t work. People can see through the glasses,” Trump said at at campaign stop in South Carolina on Tuesday. “I say he did a lousy job on the border.”
Trump plans to visit the U.S.-Mexico border this week, prompting Perry at the Opportunity & Freedom PAC Forum to shoot back: “I hope he can find the border cause I’m not sure he’s ever been there before.”
Perry and Trump have also been trading barbs over social media about who liked who first. Perry put out a video showing Trump praising his failed 2012 campaign for the presidency, while Trump posted a photo of the two of them posing together on Instagram. "@GovernorPerry in my office last cycle playing nice and begging for my support and money. Hypocrite!” read the caption.