The Big Conversation:
Rick Perry got combative this weekend, but the intense sniping now engulfing the presidential race is passing him by.
As the Republican presidential field sharpened its attacks on front-runner Mitt Romney in two debates ahead of Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, a fiery Perry unleashed a strong defense of his campaign, which last week he abruptly announced he'd continue despite a dismal fifth-place showing in the Iowa caucuses.
"When I got a target in my sight, I don’t give up," Perry on Sunday told a crowd in South Carolina, which he plans to crisscross for the next two weeks before the state's Jan. 21 primary in a last-ditch attempt at resuscitating his struggling campaign. "I’ve never quit a day in my life in the face of adversity, and I’m not just about to quit on the future of America. I’m going to stay in this race and stay in this fight."
Earlier in the day, Perry faced his rivals at an NBC News/Facebook debate, just 12 hours after the candidates squared off at an ABC News forum. Though Perry made news by saying he would send troops back into Iraq to protect the country from Iran, he and fellow Texan Ron Paul (whom the Tribune's Thanh Tan is covering in New Hampshire this week) mostly struggled for airtime in both debates as the field swung at Romney, whom The New York Times now projects will carry New Hampshire on Tuesday with 39 percent of the vote.
The Times projects Paul will place second, with 19 percent of the vote. As for Perry, some Granite State polls have shown him mired in the low single digits with long-shot candidate Buddy Roemer, a former Louisiana governor, who on Friday said Perry shouldn't have been allowed to participate in the debates.
Perry and Paul's struggle for relevance comes as Romney faces a barrage of negative advertising in South Carolina from a group supporting Newt Gingrich that, as the Times reports, plans to aggressively attack Romney's business background.
- In an attempt to settle the legal dispute that has thrown Texas' 2012 elections into disarray, the U.S. Supreme Court will convene today to begin hearing arguments over the state's redistricting maps. With political boundaries and candidacies at stake, the justices will decide whether a panel of federal judges in San Antonio overstepped its authority when it redrew the state's original plans, which the Republican-led state Legislature passed last year. And, as the Tribune's Ross Ramsey noted last week, if Texas is going to hold primary elections on April 3, as scheduled, the high court will have to act fast.
- Rick Perry on Friday named controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio his Arizona campaign chairman. The bold move comes less than a month after the U.S. Justice Department released a scathing report accusing Arpaio's office of breeding "a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos."
- Politico reports that Ron Paul will not contest the Jan. 31 Florida primary but instead focus in February on smaller caucus states like Louisiana, Maine and Nevada. Campaign chairman Jesse Benton estimated that it would cost $9 million to run a full-scale campaign in Florida, which lost half of its delegates because the state moved up its primaries in violation of Republican National Committee rules. "We’re focused on winning the 1,150 delegates to secure the nomination," Benton said. "And the amount of resources and time it would take to compete for those 50 delegates just didn’t make sense to us."
"I think people who don’t serve when they could and they get three or four or even five deferments … they have no right to send our kids off to war." — Ron Paul to Newt Gingrich in Saturday's debate
- Some Signs in Polls That Santorum’s Momentum Has Stalled, FiveThirtyEight
- Politics Up Close and Almost Personal, The New York Times
- In Manchester, flinty tradition meets real poverty, The Washington Post
- Texas Keeps Close Eye on Mexico's Presidential Race, The Texas Tribune
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