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The Brief: Sept. 12, 2011

A fading Michele Bachmann, looking to reignite her campaign, has painted a target on Rick Perry.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., at the Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo, Iowa, on Aug. 14, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

A fading Michele Bachmann, looking to reignite her campaign, has painted a target on Rick Perry.

Once the Republican field's rising star, Bachmann has struggled to attract attention and taken a hit in polls since Perry joined the race last month. (A new CNN survey puts her at just 4 percent, behind Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich.) Wednesday's debate — at which Bachmann stayed uncharacteristically quiet as Mitt Romney swung at Perry for calling Social Security a "Ponzi scheme" and a "monstrous lie" — offered her little help.

But the Minnesota congresswoman, looking for a lifeline, hopes to re-enter the fray at tonight's CNN/Tea Party Express debate in Tampa, Fla. And she's got Perry in her sights.

"Bernie Madoff deals with Ponzi schemes, not the grandparents of America," an unnamed Bachmann adviser tells The Washington Examiner. "Clearly she feels differently about the value of Social Security than Gov. Perry does. She believes Social Security needs to be saved, that it's an important safety net for Americans who have paid into it all their lives."

In an Iowa radio interview last week, Bachmann, in a veiled jab at the governor, said it was "wrong to make senior citizens believe that they should be nervous about something they have come to count on," according to The Daily Beast.

Though the Examiner notes that she has offered few specifics on her plans for entitlement reform, Bachmann's attacks may echo those of Romney, whose campaign has spent the last week hammering Perry on the issue and began distributing fliers in Florida calling Perry "reckless and wrong" on Social Security. But Bachmann has proven a fierce debater in the past, capable of stinging candidates like former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (who dropped out of the race last month and this morning endorsed Romney).

The debate audience and format may also play to Bachmann's strengths, as The New York Times notes.

As for Perry (whom the CNN poll shows still leading the GOP pack), he'll face not only a barrage of attacks at tonight's debate, but, as the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw reports, an elderly electorate in Florida, a key primary state, that may not take as kindly to his strong rhetoric.

Culled:

  • The Houston Chronicle reports that a pro-Michele Bachmann Super PAC plans to air an ad in South Carolina attacking Gov. Rick Perry's "atrocious" record on immigration.
  • A dispute over whether the federal government dragged its feet in providing disaster relief to wildfire-stricken parts of the state has pitted the Obama administration, and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, against Texas politicians like Rick Perry and Lt Gov. David Dewhurst. State officials say they requested help early last week, but federal officials say the request didn't come until Friday. The Austin American-Statesman reports that eight individuals are still missing amid the devastation in Bastrop County.
  • Rick Perry missed a wildfire press conference on Saturday because of, his aides said, logistical issues, but the governor appeared as scheduled at a ceremony in Austin commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

"I remember Rick Perry from that campaign. He was one of a number of Democratic legislators who endorsed my candidacy in 1988, and I was happy to have his support. I don't know what has happened to him since then."Al Gore, to USA Today, on Perry, who, as a Democrat, backed Gore's 1988 presidential campaign

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