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The Brief: Aug. 23, 2011

The rise of Rick Perry has sent a wave of unease through the Republican establishment.

Gov. Rick Perry takes a question at the Black Hawk County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner in Waterloo, Iowa, on Aug. 1…

The Big Conversation:

The rise of Rick Perry has sent a wave of unease through the Republican establishment.

Many elite conservatives, concerned about Perry's bluster and electability, still have yet to settle on a favorite Republican candidate — and wonky U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's announcement on Monday that he won't run has left them even more dispirited. 

“It just does seem to be a little crazy in a year when you have a chance to win the presidency that a lot of leading lights aren’t putting themselves forward,” Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and an avowed Ryan supporter, tells Politico.

The problem? As Politico puts it, "In shorthand: To many conservative elites, Rick Perry is a dope, Michele Bachmann is a joke, and Mitt Romney is a fraud."

Perry recently had congressional Republicans fretting about how his aggressively Texas style — embodied by his comments last week about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke — might affect down-ballot races in the North and the Midwest. GOP big wig Karl Rove last week voiced similar concerns about Perry's electability.

This week, Perry has faced renewed scrutiny over his anti-Washington book Fed Up!, in which he compares Social Security to a Ponzi scheme. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ray Sullivan, Perry's communications director, called the book "a review and critique of 50 years of federal excesses, not in any way … a 2012 campaign blueprint or manifesto."

But does the electability argument against Perry hold up? Not according to Gallup, which on Monday released a poll that showed Perry tying President Obama, 47-47, in a hypothetical match-up. Bachmann, Romney and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul also run virtually even with Obama, who has taken a hammering in polls recently for his handling of the economy.

As Nate Silver at The New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog outlined on Monday, there's still room for another Republican in the race. (Former New York Gov. George Pataki is the latest to flirt with a run.) But as any potential late entrant surely knows, time's running out.

Culled:

  • One is Rick Perry's communications director; the other raises money for Mitt Romney, Perry's chief Republican rival. But the uncomfortable arrangement, as the Tribune's Reeve Hamilton reports, hasn't fazed married couple Ray and Leslie Sullivan. "We're both political professionals and didn't expect this to happen, but now that it has happened," Ray said, "we'll live through it together."
  • The Texas Observer reports that the Perry campaign has reached out to Republican political consultant Juan Hernandez, who served as John McCain's Hispanic outreach director in 2008. But as the Observer notes, Hernandez — whom the McCain campaign ultimately pushed aside — could pose a risky bet for Perry, who may look to downplay some of his more moderate stances on immigration for Republican voters.
  • Though much of Texas is already experiencing the worst one-year drought on record, conditions could get even worse next year. "I've started telling anyone who's interested that it's likely much of Texas will still be in severe drought this time next summer, with water supply implications even worse than those we are now experiencing," John Nielsen-Gammon, the state's climatologist, tells the Houston Chronicle.

"I don't know how something like that qualifies as a question on national TV." — U.S. Rep. Ron Paul to Fox News when asked about the Paul supporter who placed an ad in the Austin Chronicle seeking people who've had sex with Rick Perry

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