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The Brief: Oct. 26, 2011

"Birther" talk threatened to overshadow Rick Perry's attempted campaign reboot on Tuesday.

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The Big Conversation:

"Birther" talk threatened to overshadow Rick Perry's attempted campaign reboot on Tuesday.

Perry, as expected, spent Tuesday morning in South Carolina unveiling his new economic plan, which would allow taxpayers to choose between a flat tax of 20 percent and the current income tax system.

Perry's plan would eliminate estate and capital-gains taxes and abolish the tax on Social Security benefits. Under the new system, Americans would be able to "file their taxes on a postcard," Perry said.

“Taxes will be cut across all income groups in America,” Perry said, adding, "It’s the kind of economic stimulus that President Obama could’ve achieved if he wasn’t so hell-bent on passing big-government schemes.”

Many conservatives praised the proposal, but critics, including the Obama campaign, said it would grant major tax cuts to the wealthy while shifting the burden to the middle class and require huge cuts to government spending.

But a new interview in which Perry again drew attention to President Obama's birth certificate nearly overtook Perry's policy unveiling, with which he hoped to relaunch his struggling campaign. (A New York Times/CBS News poll released Tuesday showed Perry with just 6 percent of the Republican primary vote.)

"It’s a good issue to keep alive," Perry said of the so-called birther controversy, which he revived in a Parade magazine interview published over the weekend. "You know, Donald [Trump] has got to have some fun. It’s fun to poke [Obama] a little bit and say “Hey, let’s see your grades and your birth certificate.”

Later at a news conference, Perry refused to engage on the issue, calling it "one of the biggest distractions there is going." But as The Washington Post put it: "The birther issue is, oddly, almost beside the point. The idea of simply trying to get under Obama’s skin is what matters."

Culled:

  • Rick Perry has gone positive in his first Iowa TV spot, which is set to start airing today. First reported on by The Daily Caller, the upbeat ad touts Texas' job creation during Perry's tenure and energy policies “that will create jobs and reduce our reliance on oil from countries that hate America.” Though the TV ad war is expected to escalate, the Perry camp indicated last week that it'd be saving its hardest hits for later.
  • The Perry campaign went after Mitt Romney on Tuesday for declining to take a stand on an Ohio ballot measure limiting collective-bargaining rights for which Romney had expressed support earlier this year. "Mitt Romney's finger-in-the-wind politics continued today when he refused to support right-to-work reforms signed by Ohio Governor John Kasich — reforms Romney supported in June. Americans are tired of politicians who change their beliefs to match public opinion polls," said a campaign statement. The Trib's Jay Root reports that the dueling camps have also begun sparring over tax returns.
  • Politico has a look at the Perry campaign's strained relationship with conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, who has relentlessly gone after the governor since he entered the presidential race. “It’s just very high level saturation bombing from our perspective — we don’t know why,” said a Perry ally. “It’s just duck and cover.” Rubin, a former Hollywood lawyer, told Politico, "I don’t have a loyalty in the same way that many conservative writers do that they feel hesitant or constrained about criticizing conservatives."

“Oh, I don’t know whether there’s strain. There’s certainly a difference of opinion about philosophically where you stand. I mean, you can’t change from one election another.”Rick Perry to Bill O'Reilly on whether there's tension between him and Mitt Romney

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