(CNN) – GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry said his wife's emotional speech Thursday–claiming his campaign had been "beaten up" and "brutalized"–was simply a case of familial concern.
"You know, family members always take these campaigns more substantially personal than the candidate," the Texas governor said on CNN's "American Morning" Friday.
Speaking to South Carolina voters on Thursday, Anita Perry unleashed disappointment about the way her husband's campaign had been treated.
"It's been a rough month," Perry said in comments recorded by NBC News. "We have been brutalized and beaten up and chewed up in the press to where I need this today."
But Perry defended his high school sweetheart Friday and said he's well-armored to take on the shots.
"I've been doing this a long time. I understand slings and arrows, and that's a diversion frankly," Perry said. "This is the big leagues. Everyone understands that. It's about the presidency of the United States. And we're committed to this campaign."
His comments came ahead of his first energy policy speech, which he's set to deliver late Friday morning in Pennsylvania.
Perry, who immediately jumped to top tier status when he entered the race in August, has watched his poll numbers steadily drop over recent weeks after uneven debate performances and placing second to Herman Cain in a much-watched Florida straw poll.
When pressed by CNN's Ali Velshi on his fall-back in the race, Perry repeated a line he's used before, arguing that debate skills are not the most important quality for a presidential candidate.
"You know I hope I make progress every day in my life as well as my debate performances," Perry said. "But again Americans aren't looking for the best debater."
His campaign also found itself at the center of controversy last week, when a supporter and Baptist minister of a large Texas congregation labeled Mormonism a "cult," urging Christians to vote for fellow Christian Perry, instead of a "non-Christian" like Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who's the front-runner in the national polls for the GOP nomination.
Perry answered the remarks by saying he didn't consider Mormonism a "cult" but has yet to respond to other GOP candidates who have called on Perry to repudiate the pastor as his supporter.
"We have religions of all backgrounds," Perry said. "But we also have freedom of speech and I'm not going to spend my time defending everything that is said by someone who endorse me. It doesn't mean I endorse what they said, and that is the case here."
On another morning show, Perry discounted Herman Cain's '9-9-9' tax plan, which offers a flat 9% rate on both corporate and income taxes and would impose a new 9% national sales tax.
The Texas governor argued the plan won't do well in states that already lack a sales tax. And while the plan may sound good for now, Perry said, it will only face "tough sledding" as it gets more thoroughly vetted.
"When people try to make a decision about who you really want running America, somebody that really knows how to create jobs, not somebody that's got a catchy slogan," said Perry on ABC's "Good Morning America."
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