Rick Perry warned Wednesday that Donald Trump’s “toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense” could relegate the GOP to minor-party status.

“My fellow Republicans, beware of false prophets,” the presidential hopeful said in a speech at the Willard hotel in Washington.

“Do not let itching ears be tickled by messengers who appeal to anger, division and resentment. Resentment is the poison we swallow that we hope harms another. My fellow Republicans, don’t take the poison.”

{mosads}In his address, organized by the Opportunity and Freedom PAC supporting his candidacy, Perry attacked liberal policies and the failings of the Obama administration at home and abroad but directed the bulk of his fire against Trump, who is leading Republican polls nationally.

By contrast, Perry is just barely hanging on to the final spot on Fox News’s debate stage. According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, he is in 10th place, with 2 percent support. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are hot on his heels.

Fox News is capping the Aug. 6 debate at 10 contestants based on national polling numbers.

While most of the Republicans running for president have merely detoured into attacks or stray denouncements of remarks made by Trump, Perry has established himself as Trump’s most frequent and vocal critic in the GOP.

In recent weeks, Perry has been laser-focused on highlighting how he differs from Trump, using ever-escalating rhetoric.

Republicans say engaging with Trump is an effective strategy for Perry with the potential to raise his standing in the high-stakes scramble to qualify for the Fox News debate.

“Presidential campaigns are a marathon, but there are times when you’ll have to sprint, and everyone is sprinting right now to get on that debate stage,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Being civil and playing by the normal rules of etiquette hasn’t worked for him so far, so why not hit Trump square in the nose for the media attention, if for nothing else.”

Indeed, Perry’s last speech in Washington on Republican failures in appealing to minority voters went largely unnoticed by the media, although it was well-received by conservative thinkers. Conversely, on Wednesday the media packed a conference room at the hotel to hear Perry speak and ask him questions about Trump.

In his latest speech, Perry described Trump as he did in a tweet Monday: a cancer that must be cut from the Republican Party.

“Let no one be mistaken, Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded,” Perry said.

“I will not go quiet when this cancer on conservatism threatens to metastasize into a movement of mean-spirited politics that will send the Republican Party to the same place it sent the Whig Party in 1854: the graveyard,” he continued.

In his strongest denouncement to date, Perry described Trump as a “barking carnival act” and the leader of a “know-nothing movement.” 

He said Trump was “born into privilege” and accused him of using deferments to dodge the Vietnam War. He called Trump “a man too arrogant and too self-absorbed to seek God’s forgiveness,” referring to the billionaire’s answer to a question last weekend that he wasn’t sure he had asked for God’s forgiveness.

Perry quoted Army lawyer Joseph Welch’s famous line to former Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.), asking, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

The speech earned Perry a standing ovation and cemented his status as Trump’s primary foil in the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

Trump has taken heat for remarks he made in his launch speech last month, in which he described immigrants crossing the border illegally as “rapists” and other criminals.

Perry was among the first to denounce Trump for the remarks, citing his experience as governor of the border state of Texas.

“Donald Trump the reality television star is a great generator of ratings,” Perry said Wednesday. “But Donald Trump the candidate is a sower of division,
wrongly demonizing Mexican-
Americans for political sport.”

Perry said Wednesday he hopes Trump can find the border when he visits Texas this week.

Over the weekend, the Perry-Trump feud went to another level when Trump said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who suffered permanent injuries from torture and botched medical procedures as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was not a war hero.

Those remarks struck a nerve with Perry, a former Air Force captain.

“[Trump] couldn’t have endured for five minutes what John McCain endured for five and a half years,” Perry said Wednesday to a burst of applause. “Here was a man offered the chance to go home. He refused, knowing it could cost him his life. There was no way he would leave before any man captured before him. This is the embodiment of duty, honor, country. Mr. Trump does not know the meaning of those words.”

Austin Barbour, who is leading the Perry-supporting Opportunity and Freedom PAC, told The Hill that former Texas governor’s reaction to Trump is sincere and not motivated by the potential for political gain.

“Gov. Perry is very proud of his time in the military and very close to a number of veterans, so you could see he took those remarks very personally,” Barbour said. “I think he truly believes Donald Trump is a sideshow and he’s sick of it and wants to get out there and tell the truth about this guy.”

Still, in a crowded field of Republicans, and a negligible difference among candidates between ninth and 12th place, any media coverage of the fight between the two will be a help.

“Trump is a meteor that Perry can just hook on to and take for a ride,” O’Connell said.

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