Presidential candidate Rick Perry is suggesting Republican rival Mitt Romney would not provide a stark enough contrast with President Obama in the 2012 election because of “RomneyCare.” As governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed a law which requires Massachusetts residents to get health insurance or pay a penalty.

“Government-mandated, government-run health care — it is part of what he put in place as the governor of Massachusetts,” Perry said this evening during a speech in Iowa. “…I think it’s very important that we put someone as our nominee that does not blur the lines between President Obama and the Republican Party.”

AUDIO: Perry speech in Jefferson, IA (runs 15 min)

According to Perry, a Beacon Hill Institute study shows Massachusetts lost thousands of jobs because of the state health care mandate.

“If it cost Massachusetts 18,000 jobs, think about what ObamaCare is going to do to this country,” Perry said. “RomneyCare has driven private insurance costs up by $4.3 billion in Massachusetts.”

Perry touts his own record as governor of Texas as the “blueprint” for turning the economy around. During this past Monday’s televised debate among the GOP candidates, Romney suggested the economy in Texas was booming for a variety of reasons other than Perry’s stewardship as governor. Perry brought that up during his speech tonight in Jefferson, Iowa.

“Governor Romney the other night, he said that about, you know, he said, well, it’s pretty easy to be governor when you get four aces in your hand and you think you’re good at poker,” Perry said. “You know, there’s some folks back in Texas that were a little offended by that. We worked hard in Texas. We put good, hard, practical principles into play.”

Perry contrasted his own background with Romney’s. Romney’s the son of a former Michigan governor, and George Romney earned his wealth in the car industry.

“As the son of tenant farmers, I can promise you I wasn’t born with four aces in my hand,” Perry said near the beginning of his speech, and the crowd laughed as many recognized the phrase from Monday’s debate. “But like many of you the American dream was available to us because this country that we live in is not a class society. This country is based on hard-work and vision and anyone who does that can achieve anything that they desire.”

Perry’s apperance at the Greene County GOP fundraiser in Jefferson was arranged this past Tuesday and about 200 people showed up to hear the Texan. Becky and Bruce Keeney of Jefferson got to the venue early and wound up sitting right in front of Perry during his speech.  She is undecided, but he is ready to back Perry.

“He tells it like it is and Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and I like him,” Bruce Keeney said.

Bob Knaub of Jefferson had been following former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s campaign, but with Pawlenty out of the race, Knaub said he’s looking for a conservative who can straighten out the country.

“Lack of employment’s a big one for me,” he said. “I have a good, stable job, but I have a lot of family that don’t have jobs right now and I’d like to see these things turn around.”

Roger and Lou Blanchfield of Churdan recently bought Perry’s book and have started reading it.

“What I like about the book is that on TV you get soundbites, you get this quick response, but here he tells why he stands for the positions he does.”