The Big Conversation:
News of Gov. Rick Perry's pre-announcement announcement got a rise out of the governor's chief Republican foil on Monday.
After news broke yesterday that Perry planned to use a speech in South Carolina on Saturday to "remove any doubt" about his presidential ambitions, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney — asked by a New Hampshire voter about his relatively weak performance in the South in 2008 — took what could be seen as a veiled swipe at Perry.
“You know, there was a poll, I guess it was about a month ago, that was a little surprising,” said Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, according to The New York Times. “It had me as the only Republican candidate who in Texas could beat President Obama. I think I was ahead by 8 points. No one else was ahead of him.”
Neither Romney, who continues to lead in national polls of GOP primary voters, nor any of the other top GOP candidates have yet to outwardly address a Perry candidacy, though U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota — who would compete with Perry for social conservative voters — appeared to have intensified her evangelical outreach following Perry's well-attended prayer event this weekend.
Perry's speech on Saturday, at a RedState convention, also coincides with the Iowa Straw Poll, an early test of support for candidates in the early caucus state. Perry's name won't appear on the ballot (some supporters have mounted a write-in campaign), but the governor's remarks will likely siphon some attention from Bachmann, whom many have predicted will win on Saturday. A new Rasmussen poll released Monday showed Bachmann running slightly ahead of Romney in Iowa, within the margin of error, with Perry in fourth, behind U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.
It's not all good news for Bachmann on the polling front, though. A new Gallup poll puts her in fourth place nationally, behind Paul, with Perry, at 17 percent, in second behind Romney, at 24 percent. Among Tea Party supporters, Perry narrowly leads Romney, 23 to 22 percent, with Bachmann in third at 19 percent.
As for the governor's announcement, a formal declaration of his candidacy won't likely come until next week.
- The leading Republican contenders may have been largely silent on Gov. Rick Perry so far, but long-shot candidate Rick Santorum, who attacked Perry for his recent comments about states' rights and gay marriage, continued his assault against the governor on Monday. "If reports are true, then I want to be the first to welcome Governor Perry to the race — but it's too bad he chose to ignore Iowa," Santorum said in a statement, CNN reports. "I guess we'll all see each other soon on the trail. I wonder which version of marriage he'll be 'fine' with in South Carolina — obviously, not the same version he was 'fine' with in New York." Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, has gained little traction in Republican primary polls.
- A San Antonio-area company has filed a lawsuit alleging that the business tax overhaul Rick Perry signed into law in 2006 is an unconstitutional income tax. As the Tribune's Jay Root reports, a high-profile debate over the tax — which was intended to fix the state's school finance system — could complicate Perry's bid for the presidency.
- The Trib's Ross Ramsey reported Monday that Mike Toomey, Rick Perry's former chief of staff, has formed Make Us Great Again, the latest Super PAC — a type of independent group able to spend unlimited amounts of money — to form in support of the governor's presidential run. "Our advice is to avoid any other group claiming to be 'the' pro-Perry independent effort and, when the timing is right, to support 'Make Us Great Again,'" Toomey wrote in an email to potential supporters. Toomey's ties to Perry run deep: He worked with the governor when they were both members of the Texas House and then played a central role in the human papillomavirus vaccine controversy that dogged Perry in 2007.
- Politico reports that President Barack Obama's re-election team has planned to focus its efforts largely on a high-power personal assault against Mitt Romney, seemingly ignoring the possibility of a Rick Perry candidacy.
“I’m going to do pretty darn well in Dixie." — Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney on Monday at a town-hall event in New Hampshire
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