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The Brief: Aug. 22, 2011

Preparing for his second week on the campaign trail, Rick Perry was hit Sunday by an unlikely aggressor.

Gov. Rick Perry listens to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's speech at an event in Waterloo, Iowa, on Aug. 14, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Preparing for his second week on the campaign trail, Rick Perry was hit Sunday by an unlikely aggressor.

Lagging in polls, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman jabbed at Perry for his recent criticism of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and for his attacks on climate science.

“I think when you find yourself at an extreme end of the Republican Party, you make yourself unelectable,” Huntsman said in an interview on This Week. Perry's fiery rhetoric, he added, "perpetuates the name-calling and the finger-pointing and the blame game where we want solutions."

Though many viewed him early in the race as a potential top-tier candidate, Huntsman, a moderate in this year's GOP field, has so far made headlines largely for his inability to make many headlines. (A story earlier this month on turmoil within his campaign is one exception.) Perry and Huntsman also dined together in Austin earlier this summer, before Huntsman had officially entered the race.

But Huntsman went on the offensive late last week, knocking Perry on Twitter for challenging climate change and evolution. ("To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy," he wrote.) And on Sunday, also targeting U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann for her vote against raising the debt ceiling, Huntsman appeared to be testing a new aggressive tack while continuing to position himself as a sensible, middle-of-the-road Republican. The public is "crying out for a sensible middle ground," he said.

Meanwhile, Perry, who returned to Austin on Saturday, will likely face another round of intense scrutiny this week as he takes a brief break before heading back on the campaign trail. National outlets, which for the past two weeks have been collectively probing Texas' economy, have now turned their attention toward Perry's hefty fundraising hauls — which, as The New York Times notes, in many cases have come from individuals whom he has awarded grants, tax breaks and appointments.

Culled:

  • As Politico reports, wealthy trial lawyers may wield outsize influence in next year's elections if Gov. Rick Perry, an enthusiastic supporter of tort reform, wins the Republican nomination. Houston trial lawyer Steve Mostyn — the prolific Democratic fundraiser whose political action committee in 2010 took out newspaper ads calling Perry a "coward" — tells Politico that he's forming "some federal PACs" to challenge Perry, with whom Mostyn most recently clashed over state windstorm insurance reform.
  • Today marks the first day back to school for many Texas students, many of whom will feel the effects of budget cuts in classes and extracurricular programs — and, as the Austin American-Statesman notes, in less obvious places, like in the lunch line and at the bus stop.
  • As expected, Rick Perry's whirlwind debut appears to have most visibly rattled U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, whom Perry has suddenly eclipsed as the latest fiery Republican novelty. As Politico notes, though, Bachmann has already taken steps to counter the Perry surge by bolstering her staff in South Carolina and ramping up outreach in Iowa.

"I want you to say, 'That dog won't hunt!'"Rick Perry in Austin on Saturday, advising his supporters how they should respond when critics challenge Texas' accomplishments

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