From AP REPORTS

AUSTIN - Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been known to bash the federal government, but while campaigning in Iowa he aimed his criticism specifically at President Bush, saying he isn’t a fiscal conservative.

Perry made the remarks about his fellow Texan while stumping last week for Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani. Video posted on YouTube.com shows Perry saying that Washington isn’t working and that Bush failed to rein in spending increases as Texas governor.

He said Bush “has never ever been a fiscal conservative,” the Austin American-Statesman reported Friday.

Perry described Giuliani as a fiscal conservative and supply-side Ronald Reagan Republican. He also said Giuliani would keep up the war on terrorism.

Perry, who endorsed Giuliani this fall and has been campaigning for him in other states, spoke to 20 to 30 people at a house party promoting Giuliani in Ely, Iowa, on Dec. 6, less than a month before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

Video snippets from the stop were posted on YouTube.com by the party’s host, Craig Nelson.

Perry cast Giuliani as someone who could work with Democrats to make progress in Washington where “it ain’t working today. They are spending too much money, it takes too long and they’re doing more harm than good.”

Perry, responding to a party guest’s suggestion that federal spending could kill candidates with voters, said that as governor, Bush consistently signed into law budget increases.

“Let me tell you something,” Perry said, “George Bush was never a fiscal conservative. Never was. … Wasn’t when he was in Texas. … I mean, ‘95, ‘97, ‘99, George Bush was spending money.”

Perry turned to his press secretary, Robert Black, who joined him at the Iowa stop.

“Do you agree?” the governor asked. Black nodded.

On Friday, after he helped a radio station distribute bicycles to children, Perry stood by his characterization of Bush.

Perry, a Republican who succeeded Bush as governor in 2000, singled out Bush’s initiatives on juvenile justice, tort reform and education policy, saying: “He was a great governor. Cutting the budget isn’t one of the things he focused on and did.”

As governor, Bush had to work with Democrats holding the jobs of lieutenant governor and speaker of the Texas House, Perry noted. But he said every governor has veto powers.

“And, frankly, my criticism is that he (Bush) should have told those guys (Democrats), look, you’re spending too much money, and I’m going to veto some line items (in the state budget),” Perry said.

Perry also revealed in his Iowa appearance that GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, had asked Perry to chair his campaign earlier this year.

“It was a hard conversation to call him and tell him I was for Rudy,” Perry said. “He was disappointed, a bit frustrated. I still love him, and he still loves me.”

In Austin on Tuesday, as Perry filed Giuliani’s candidacy papers for the Texas primary, Perry briefly called Huckabee his favorite for president before saying he’d misspoken.

In Iowa, Perry said of Huckabee: “I just don’t think he can win.”

Clinton files for Texas’ Democratic primary

AUSTIN - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton made it official Wednesday that she’ll be in Texas’ Democratic primary March 4.

Clinton’s campaign filed her candidate paperwork with the Texas Democratic Party. Democrat John Edwards already had filed for the state’s primary.

On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Rick Perry presented candidacy papers for Rudy Giuliani to enter the Texas GOP primary.

Texas’ primary may not have any sway in the presidential nomination race since it falls so late in the season. Other states holding primaries before then and could seal the nominations. California, New York and Florida and a slew of smaller states all have primaries before March.

Texas’ party primaries may be most interesting for determining the makeup of the Texas House and how many of Republican Speaker Tom Craddick’s allies are likely to be returning. Craddick survived an ouster attempt in the legislative session this year and is expected to face another one when lawmakers convene again in 2009.

Craddick filed his candidacy paperwork for the Republican primary on Wednesday. He represents a Midland district.

Edwards criticizes rivals

DUBUQUE, Iowa - John Edwards said Saturday his chief Democratic rivals for the White House offer “a complete fantasy” when explaining the role of special interests. His party, he said, could lose its way and alienate supporters unless it stands by those most in need.

“I think if my party, the Democratic Party, if we’re not willing to fight for, stand up and show some backbone on behalf of the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the disenfranchised, we have no soul,” the former North Carolina senator said. “What are we going to stand for?”

Edwards cited fellow candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton for suggesting that expanded health care and other gains can be achieved by bargaining with what he called entrenched interests.

“The easiest thing to do is say we can be nice about this, we can turn our heads and we can sit at a table with stakeholders and negotiate with them and they will voluntarily give their power away,” said Edwards, the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2004. “It is a complete fantasy.”

Edwards opened his latest campaign swing with a little celebrity power — actor and musician Kevin Bacon — and he sought to make clear his differences with Obama, the Illinois senator, and Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady.

“We need a president who says to the American people that corporate greed and corporate power is not going to stop us any more,” Edwards said. “I do actually believe we have an enormous fight in front of us.”

Obama, who held rallies last weekend in the state with Oprah Winfrey, suggests that the health care debate should include all groups interested in the issue. Edwards cast the issue in terms of working people battling against special interests.

“I just fundamentally disagree,” Edwards said. “I think we have an epic fight in front of us.”

His main challengers take a more intellectual approach to politics than he does, Edwards contended. “I believe we need a fighter, not somebody who talks about it, who thinks about it,” he said.

Clinton has built a substantial lead in national polls in the battle for the nomination. But she is in a tough race with Obama and Edwards in Iowa, where precinct caucuses on Jan. 3 will launch the election season.

Edwards, who finished a surprising second in the caucuses four years ago, is seeking to energize his supporters, whom his advisers says are experienced in the often intimidating task of going to a caucus and publicly declaring their preferences.

More than 300 people turned out on a snowy Saturday morning to hear Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, deliver their pitch. Bacon, who said he signed on with Edwards about a month ago, entertained the crowd with some songs by his band.

“He really struck me because he’s got a dream and he’s got a plan,” Bacon said. “I kind of feel like that’s what we need.”

To the crowd, Edwards said: “If you are willing on a cold January night to stand up with me, I’m going to give you back your Democratic Party, I’m going to give you back the White House and I’m going to give you back your country. “If we don’t take the power away from these people, they’re not going to give it up.”