The Massachusetts healthcare law passed by Mitt Romney (R) as governor is a "huge problem," Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said Thursday of his top competitor for the GOP presidential nomination.

Perry assailed the state healthcare law for its similarities to President Obama's nationwide healthcare reform law, which the Texan called a "total debacle."


"I think Mitt is finally recognizing that the Massachusetts healthcare plan he passed is a huge problem for him," Perry said on conservative talker Laura Ingraham's radio show. "It was not almost perfect."

The healthcare law has been seen as one of Romney's biggest potential political liabilities, one he tried to put behind him with a May speech in Ann Arbor, where he embraced the plan, including its individual mandate — the requirement that individuals buy insurance, a key feature in common with Obama's law.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) sought to turn it into a cudgel against Romney, coining the phrase "ObamneyCare" to tether the two plans together.

"I'm a big believer that the answer to our healthcare problems can be found in our states," Perry said.

Perry used the radio appearance to help advance his image as a candidate who deplores the Washington establishment; he also worked to distinguish himself from former President George W. Bush of Texas, to whom he's often compared despite the reputedly poor relationship between Perry and the Bush family.

"I'm Rick Perry and I am who I am and I've got my own record. I'm not George Bush, I don't try to be," Perry said. He griped that some opponents criticize him because "I speak plainly."

"I am not an establishment figure," Perry said. "I dislike Washington; I think it's a seedy place."

Critics point to Perry's recent appointment of two top donors to two state posts, along with his reported past interest in running for Senate as evidence of his establishment credentials.

—Updated 11:47 a.m.