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The Brief: Sept. 15, 2011

Rick Perry returns to Iowa today with a major order of business: vanquish Michele Bachmann.

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

The Big Conversation:

Rick Perry returns to Iowa today with a major order of business: vanquish Michele Bachmann.

Perry — who spent Wednesday talking faith and grades in an address at Liberty University in Virginia and then dining with Donald Trump in New York City — still leads in polls. But an extended spat with Bachmann over his 2007 HPV vaccine mandate has again elevated the Minnesota congresswoman, whose star began to fade when Perry entered the race last month.

At the CNN/Tea Party Express debate on Monday night, Bachmann lobbed the fiercest attack of the night at Perry over the HPV controversy, re-inserting herself into what polls showed quickly becoming a two-person race, between Perry and Mitt Romney.

To maintain his lead, Perry, as political observers tell The Des Moines Register, must prove his electability with voters in early-voting states. (A new Bloomberg poll shows Perry running 9 points behind President Obama in a hypothetical match-up.) But first, they say, he must stanch the re-emergence of Bachmann, with whom he still competes most directly for conservative votes, especially in Iowa.

“I think tactically, if I were running the Perry campaign, I would focus very hard on Iowa in order to try to blunt and possibly end Michele Bachmann’s campaign,” Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University, tells the Register. “They draw preciously on the same constituency. A vote for her is a vote he won’t get and vice versa.”

Bachmann, though, hasn't relented. On Tuesday, she cited safety concerns over the HPV vaccine, faulting Perry for mandating "what could potentially be a very dangerous drug." She also told the story of a woman who claimed that the vaccine caused her daughter's mental retardation.

In Virginia on Wednesday, Perry struck back: “I think that was a statement that had no truth in it, no basis in fact," he said.

Culled:

  • Time has secured the first extensive interview with Rick Perry since he officially entered the presidential race. In the sit-down, Perry, on this week's cover, talks Social Security, Palestine, China and what should happen next in Afghanistan. Time also has the story behind the cover here.
  • Redistricting maps and the state's abortion sonogram law aren't the only new measures in Texas whose opponents are pushing for federal intervention. A group of civil and minority rights groups on Wednesday urged the U.S. Justice Department to reject Texas' new voter ID law, which the groups said "adversely and disproportionately affect citizens of color who do not have the financial wherewithal as their White counterparts to secure the documentation necessary to meet the [Voting Rights] Act’s strict requirement."
  • A fight between moderate and conservative wings of the Republican Party may come to define the race for the GOP presidential nomination, but as The New York Times reports (and in some good news for Rick Perry), history shows that parties that have been out of power for only a short time tend to nominate more partisan candidates.

"It was very good. He knows his restaurants."Rick Perry on his dinner Wednesday night in New York City with Donald Trump

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