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October 25, 2011

Perry Staffers Promise Bare-Knuckled Assault on Romney

Some context: If Rick Perry is sounding like he's a little desperate, he is. A new CBS poll puts him in fifth place, after Cain (25%), Romney (21%), Newt Gingrich (10%), and the Candidate With Simplistic Conspiracy-Theory-Infulenced Answers for Complicated Questions(8%). (Dear Representative Paul: We had recessions and depressions and bubbles and busts with the gold standard and before the Fed. Please explain how that can be, since the One Big Thing you know (you think) about economics is that manipulation of fiat money is the principal cause of such things.)

Perry clocks in at 6%, which isn't top tier. In fact, it's falling out of the second tier, too.

Of course, all is not lost for Perry. This primary is like the weather: If you like it, don't worry. It'll change soon enough. If Cain can rise and fall and rise again, maybe Perry can too.

So he's decided to go after Romney.

Perry has brought on board a new group of media consultants known for their brass-knuckled tactics and sharp read on the GOP base. Joe Allbaugh, a former top aide to President George W. Bush, added major national heft to the Perry team by signing on as a senior adviser.

It all adds up to a course correction that may give Perry his best shot at getting back into contention with Romney, the sometime GOP front-runner whom Perry attacked forcefully in last week’s Nevada GOP debate.

Expect plenty more where that came from, say strategists familiar with Perry’s growing team.

“The Perry folks are undergoing a reboot of sorts after last week’s debate, where they are moving to make this a two-man race,” said conservative strategist Keith Appell, who worked on Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s 2010 campaign with brand-new Perry advisers Tony Fabrizio, Curt Anderson and Nelson Warfield.

Appell predicted the fresh blood would help the Texan wage a more focused and aggressive campaign.

“They are all kindred spirits with the Perry people in that they are all Washington outsiders who aren’t afraid to take on the establishment,” Appell said. “It will soon be Mitt Romney’s turn to feel like a piñata.”

Also possibly a sign of desperation: Perry's floating the birth certificate issue.

He's not committing to it, but he's either 1, courting the cadre of voters who are determined to be proven right on the question (even if they're not), or 2, which I suspect, he actually doesn't know much about it and honestly heard Donald Trump express doubts about the long form birth certificate's authenticity. Like most people, he hasn't actually done much investigating himself, so takes the judgment of others to be a proxy for actual evidence.

One of my big theories about politics is that it's better to be trusted on an issue than to have to prove one's bona fides by making strident claims about one's beliefs.

If a candidate is simply trusted as a true blue social con, and doesn't have to fill his resume with tough-sounding rhetoric about ending abortion, he's a better candidate for the general election. Essentially he has the best of both worlds -- he placates the right while not leaving much of a paper trail that will turn independents against him.

I thought when Perry entered the race, with his front-runner status secure and all the momentum in the world, he was that kind of candidate. He didn't have to go hard after constituencies, because the main constituencies he needed to win the primary already tended to trust him as one of their own.

However, he's not that candidate anymore. Like any second or third tier candidate, he's going to have to claw his way back up by appealing to specific constituencies. And those appeals will be used against him later in the general election (assuming he wins the nomination).

In other words, whether he wins or loses the primary, I think he's a weaker general election candidate than he was two months ago.

But virtually everyone in the primaries is weak in one way or another, I suppose.

Romney may be a decent general election candidate. And what would he do if he won? Not support John Kasich's budget reforms in Ohio, it turns out. (DrewM's got an upcoming post about this.)

But someone has to win the nomination.

So we're in a process now of choosing who seems the weakest and/or who offends us the least.

I suppose I'll just have to content myself with voting for Not Obama, whoever that Not Obama candidate turns out to be.

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posted by Ace at 02:18 PM

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