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The Brief: Sept. 19, 2011

Two debates and weeks of campaigning haven't quieted some swing-state Republicans' concerns about Rick Perry.

Gov. Rick Perry speaks at the Iowa State Fair during a campaign stop on Aug. 14, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Two debates and weeks of campaigning haven't quieted some swing-state Republicans' concerns about Rick Perry.

Specifically, as Politico reports, worries persist about Perry's appeal in swing-state suburbs, in which moderates of the fiscally conservative yet socially liberal mold could play a decisive role — and to whom many Republicans still think Mitt Romney would prove an easier sell.

"He’s someone the independents can turn to — maybe your conservative Democrats, definitely moderate Republicans," Florida state Sen. Mike Fasano said of Romney, citing Perry's controversial remarks about Social Security. "He has a broader appeal beyond just the right wing of the Republican Party."

Several swing-state pols and operatives, some of whom withheld their names to avoid offending Perry, told Politico the same. “I don’t think Rick Perry is going over real well in the southeast” of Pennsylvania, said state Sen. John Rafferty. An Ohio political strategist called Perry "too hot" for some swing states, and a longtime Missouri Republican said Perry would "make Missouri more competitive than it should be."

But Republicans with a rosier outlook on 2012 wonder why they should compromise when, with the help of a still-faltering economy, they could win with the more conservative candidate anyway. "As long as the Republican nominee is able to stick to the message of being an advocate for job creation, folks … are going to see that and appreciate that," said Frank McNulty, the Republican speaker of the Colorado House.

Perry and Romney have tried to wield these characterizations of each other to their own benefit. Romney has said that Perry's continued description of Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme" could "obliterate" the Republican Party; Perry has said Republicans should resist electing a nominee who would "blur the lines" between himself and President Obama.


  • The New York Times has its own look at Rick Perry's hometown of Paint Creek, which "propelled a restless farm boy whose disciplinarian father was a local power broker into a life of politics that fed off his roots while he moved beyond them and, some say, betrayed them." Some residents, as the Times reports, still haven't forgiven Perry for switching to the Republican Party in 1990.
  • The Associated Press has dug up the story of the spat that some say helped open the rift between Rick Perry and George W. Bush, which has become the object of much speculation since Perry mounted his presidential run. In 1995, the AP reports, Bush, then the governor, refused to appoint Perry's brother-in-law to a vacancy on the Texas appeals court, and Perry, the agriculture commissioner at the time, reportedly blamed Bush adviser Karl Rove. "It created some friction between the two and Karl got blamed," said Bill Ratliff, who served as Perry's lieutenant governor from 2000 to 2003.
  • Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who four months ago dashed many Republicans' hopes when he announced that he wouldn't run for president, said over the weekend that the debate between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney over Social Security has left him frustrated and that the Republican presidential field could still fit at least one more candidate. "I don’t think any of this is very helpful,” Daniels said of Perry's recent statements. "If there’s a problem with 'Ponzi scheme,' it is that it’s too frank, not that it’s wrong. But by stopping there, he might be unnecessarily scaring people." Daniels, who decided against running because of family concerns, added that he has tried to "recruit three or four people" to run. 

"He does not back down in the face of criticism. He rejects weather-vane politics." — First lady Anita Perry, touting her husband to a group of Florida Republicans on Saturday


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