The GOP Presidential Race Gets (Texas) Ugly

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Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images and Charlie Neibergall-Pool/Getty Images
Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney
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Campaign roundup: today's best 2012 coverage.

The latest Rasmussen poll has Rick Perry already heading the GOP presidential field, just three days after jumping into the race: "Texas Governor Rick Perry, the new face in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, has jumped to a double-digit lead over Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann with the other announced candidates trailing even further behind. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Republican Primary voters, taken Monday night, finds Perry with 29 percent support. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran unsuccessfully for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, earns 18 percent of the vote, while Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman who won the high-profile Ames Straw Poll in Iowa on Saturday, picks up 13 percent." [Rasmussen Reports]

Perry's aggressive Fed bashing – he said that in Texas they would treat Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke "pretty ugly" and he called the Fed's monetary policy "treasonous" – could put Mitt Romney in a tough spot: "Rick Perry's tough words for Ben Bernanke Monday weren't just idle talk. By going after the Federal Reserve, he immediately brings to the forefront one of the few major policy distinctions between him and Mitt Romney. A successful investor who is well-versed in monetary policy, Romney has been extremely wary about joining in on the Republican party's populist revolt against the Federal Reserve over the last two years. Perry, by contrast, is clearly all too happy to ride the anti-Fed tide, perhaps making a play for some of the Bernanke haters more naturally drawn to Ron Paul... If Perry pushes the issue, he could force Romney into the awkward position of defending Bernanke and the Fed on the stump, an unpopular move with many Republicans that also highlights the cultural differences between the two candidates by playing up Romney's Wall Street ties against Perry's modest West Texas roots." [Talking Points Memo]

On Tuesday, Perry refused to walk back his Bernanke comments, perhaps signaling the start of what will be an ugly 2012 race: "A spokesman for Mr. Perry said Tuesday that the governor “got passionate” in his remarks about the Federal Reserve, but he did not disavow the comments. 'He is passionate about getting federal finances under control,' the spokesman, Ray Sullivan, said in an interview here. 'They shouldn’t print more money. They should cut spending and move much more rapidly to a balanced budget.'" [New York Times]

Perry may be rising high, but he's about to face a whole new level of scrutiny:  "The centerpiece of his campaign message, the Texas Economic Miracle, is already coming into question in the media, and will be challenged, however indirectly, by his GOP rivals. Eventually, someone will draw attention to the fact that if Perry’s low-tax, low-services, corporate-subsidizing policies really were an economic cure-all, similar conditions should have made states like Alabama and Mississippi world-beating dynamos years ago. He will also have to answer for past actions that have annoyed conservatives mightily, from his long-time advocacy of a state-level version of the DREAM Act, to his 2007 demand for inoculation of every female teenager with a vaccine against the HPV virus, to ... his very recent flip-flops on gay marriage and abortion .... To be sure, it’s possible that the Perry hype is justified, and he’ll surge ahead of Bachmann in Iowa and get his one-on-one with Romney. He remains the best-positioned of the three serious contenders as a potential 'unity' candidate for a vengeful, conservative-trending party smelling victory and wanting to hide its cultural and fiscal extremism behind a plausible economic success story. But it won’t be a cakewalk, if only because Perry’s not the only candidate feeling a calling to run and win this race." [The New Republic]     

Despite his Texan-to-the-bone persona and extreme positions, Perry can be the unity candidate, says Sean Trende; but he doesn't have much room for error: "Southern delegates will make up just over a third of the total GOP convention – and this is using the Census Bureau definition of the 'South,' which includes border states like Maryland and Kentucky. Note that the Northeast and West combine for as many delegates as the South, while the West and Midwest can combine to trump it. ... In short, I think if Perry can unify the Republicans early – and I believe he can unify them – he could make short work of the GOP primary process. But over the long haul, the dynamics of the GOP primary that are presently at work will begin to weigh him down. He needs to strike hard early on, or hope his opposition implodes." [RealClearPolitics]

Also, Perry's right-wing economic beliefs might be a tough sell with moderate voters: "In a period of declining confidence in the federal government's ability to fix either its own problems or those of the economy, the Perry intention to make government inconsequential seems especially attuned to the times – particularly for Republican-primary voters. In his signature line, Mr. Perry isn't so much promising to tackle the problem of government dysfunction as to make it irrelevant to average Americans... So there is little doubt the ground is laid for an antigovernment, anti-incumbent message, and little doubt that Rick Perry knows how to deliver it. The question he'll confront—and that his party will have to decide – is whether his version of that message is too sharp and ideological to appeal to the voters in the center who decide national elections." [Wall Street Journal]

Mitt Romney is sharpening his jobs rhetoric in response to Rick Perry's entry into the race: "Eyeing a fellow front-runner with a Texas-size jobs record, Mitt Romney is stressing his own job-creation record in the private sector, a move that comes as Gov. Rick Perry enters the field and the Republican primary race becomes a more sharply defined contest... Perry bounded into the race on Saturday in South Carolina and has quickly become a serious challenger to Romney with his strong record of job creation – nearly 40 percent of the jobs created in the past two years were in Texas. Yet Romney, who co-founded the investment firm Bain Capital in 1984, is betting that primary and general-election voters will prefer a businessman to a lifelong politician – Perry is the Lone Star State’s longest-serving governor. Before that, he was a state legislator, agriculture commissioner and lieutenant governor." [Washington Post]

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