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Texas Gov. Rick Perry emerged from the latest Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Florida with plenty of arrows in his back – although this time most of them came from right.

Sure there was the expected back and forth on the issue of Social Security between Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney – who is doing his best to portray Perry as a radical for referring to the program (correctly) as a Ponzi scheme.

“The term Ponzi scheme, I think, is over the top and unnecessary and frightful to many people,” Romney said. “The real question is, does Gov. Perry continue to believe that Social Security should not be a federal program, that it’s unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states?”

“If what you’re trying to say is back in the ’30s and ’40s the federal government made all the right decisions, I disagree with you,” Perry fired back, drawing applause from the crowd of 1,200 Tea Party supporters.

Romney also dinged Perry on his jobs record as governor of Texas, saying that employment growth there had more to do with the state’s preexisting business climate than it did with Perry’s efforts.

“I think Gov. Perry would agree with me that if you’re dealt four aces that doesn’t make you a great poker player,” Romney said.

But whereas last week’s debate in California was all about Perry and Romney doing battle, the Florida debate saw the rest of the GOP field go on the offensive against the Texas governor.

For example, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) blasted Perry over his decision to issue an executive order requiring that young girls be vaccinated against HPV – a sexually-transmitted disease. Not only did Bachmann ding Perry on the dubious legality of the order itself, but she claimed that Perry was motivated to release it because his former chief of staff was a lobbyist for the company that manufactured the vaccine.

“It’s very clear that crony capitalism could likely have been the cause (of the order),” Bachmann said, reviving the issue of Perry’s “pay-to-play” problem.

Bachmann continued her offensive after the debate, telling FOX News “I never would have done that to innocent little 12-year-old girls.”

Meanwhile U.S. Rep. Ron Paul – a constituent of Perry’s in Texas – blasted his governor on the issue of taxes.

“I’m a taxpayer there,” Paul said. “My taxes have gone up … but I don’t want to offend the governor, he might raise my taxes or something.”

According to the latest CNN/ORC poll – released just hours before the debate began – Perry enjoys the support of 32 percent of likely Republican primary voters. Romney is in second place with 21 percent support while Paul is in third place with 13 percent support.

Perry’s support is flat from a survey conducted two weeks ago by the same pollsters, while Romney has picked up three points and Paul has picked up seven points. Bachmann, on the other hand, has seen her support drop from 12 percent to 7 percent over the last two weeks.

Pic: via Daylife

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