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The Brief: Oct. 4, 2011

President Obama will visit Texas today facing strong political headwinds. Rick Perry, on the rocks like never before, can relate.

Gov. Rick Perry answers media questions upon his arrival at the Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo, Iowa, on Aug. 14, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

President Obama will visit Texas today facing strong political headwinds. Rick Perry, on the rocks like never before, can relate.

No stranger to political woes himself, Obama, who will attend two fundraising luncheons in Dallas and then promote his jobs plan at a rally in Mesquite, is dropping in as Perry faces the gravest challenge yet of his campaign: clambering out of the hole he's been pushed into by the Washington Post story questioning how and when he dealt with a hunting property his family leased whose local name, painted on a rock at the camp's entrance, contained a racial epithet.

On Monday, as reporters went in search of the rock that started it all (to the ire of many local residents), home-state critics came to Perry's defense.

“He doesn’t have a racist bone in his body,” former Democratic state Rep. Ron Wilson, who is black and served with Perry in his early years in the Legislature, told the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw. “He didn’t then, and he doesn’t now.” (Many critics, however, as The Dallas Morning News notes, take a different view of the governor's policies, and The Associated Press notes that Perry once defended Confederate symbols.)

But assurances from Democrats back home didn't kill the story, which knocked Perry off balance this weekend, just as he seemed to be regaining his footing after taking a pummeling for his defense of a Texas law that extended in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants.

"We'll know in the next 48 hours" the impact of controversy, Dan Schnur, director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "This one is going to end up in the damage control textbooks, either for bad or for good."

The bad news began stacking up on Monday, though, as a new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Perry having lost half of his support among Republicans in the last month. Without Sarah Palin or New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the race, Perry now ties businessman Herman Cain with 16 percent of the vote — a 13-point decline for Perry. Mitt Romney leads with 25 percent. An even more troubling poll for Perry, out of Florida, showed him dropping 16 points to fourth place, behind Romney, Cain and Newt Gingrich.

That said, as the polls indicate, Perry may be down, but he's still not out. The Perry campaign is likely pinning its hopes on the controversy blowing over as quickly as possible, but it knows the likelihood of that.

“We certainly suspect the news media and the opposition and others may bring it up," Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan told The New York Times. "In which case it will be honestly addressed."


  • With the state of Texas already facing criticism for having slowed repairs to thousands of homes damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008, the Austin American-Statesman has found that the state outsourced the management of more than $1 billion in federal disaster aid to an engineering firm with ties to Gov. Rick Perry. Of the money the state has set aside so far for grant overhead, it has already spent 92 percent — most of it on payments to the firm, HNTB, which consulted Perry on the failed Trans-Texas Corridor. Yet only 20 percent of the first round of disaster recovery aid Texas received from the federal government has been spent.
  • As the Trib's Julián Aguilar reports, Rick Perry’s recent suggestion he might support sending the U.S. military into Mexico to fight cartel-related violence has elicited a variety of reactions, from condemnation to praise that a presidential candidate has taken on the issue.
  • U.S. Rep. Ron Paul said Monday that the assassination of American-born al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki might be grounds for the impeachment of President Obama. “I put responsibility on the president because this is obviously a step in the wrong direction,” Paul said. “We have just totally disrespected the Constitution.”

"I think it's offensive. I think most people think it's offensive."Mitt Romney, in an appearance on Sean Hannity's radio show, responding to the Perry camp-name controversy


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