Since Texas Gov. Rick Perry entered the presidential race Saturday, he has bounded across the early primary and caucus states, grabbing headlines and the attention of his rivals and the media alike. He has uttered some eyebrow-raising comments on his first week on the stump and been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans.
Still, he has dominated the 2012 conversation even though it was Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who won the Ames, Iowa, straw poll Saturday.
But where's the frontrunner?
Mitt Romney has kept a relatively low profile all week, criticizing President Obama for his bus tour around the Midwest and his upcoming vacation on Martha's Vineyard. He held a campaign event in New Hampshire Wednesday and was fundraising in Wyoming Thursday, but he has kept his comments about the newest member of the 2012 club brief, calling him "a fine man and a fine governor."
The Romney campaign's strategy for taking on Perry is to keep the focus on criticism of Obama and to avoid taking on Perry directly for as long as possible, according to advisers and members of his finance team. They hope Perry continues to spout controversial statements such as the ones this week about the Federal Reserve and global warming.
"What sells in Texas doesn't always sell in other parts of the country," one member of Romney's finance team said.
Perry has taken a different approach, going after Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody and telling reporters in Iowa, "Take a look at his record when he was governor, take a look at my record. ... That's apples to apples."
Perry added that the difference between running a business and running a state is "apples to oranges."
When he was asked about Romney, Perry blew an air kiss and said, "Send him my love."
Despite being the nation's longest-serving governor, Perry lacks the experience of national reporters closely covering him and examining the decisions he made in office.
Romney went through such scrutiny during his last bid for the White House and despite some awkward comments -- most notably last week in Iowa when he told a heckler, "Corporations are people, too" -- he seems to have benefitted from going through the process before.
For now, the Romney camp seems to be following the plan to focus on Obama, not Perry, and hammer home its economic message.
"Mitt Romney considers Rick Perry a friend and believes he will add a lot to the discussion during the primary," Romney communications director Gail Gitcho said. "But he is going to stay the course and keep his focus on President Obama's failed economic policies. This country needs a president who understands how the economy works and has private-sector experience. That is why Mitt Romney is running."
Earlier in the week, Romney told reporters in New Hampshire, according to the Boston Globe, that his business background made him the better candidate to create jobs.
"I think understanding how the economy works by having worked in the real economy is finally essential for the White House, and I hope people recognize that," Romney said.
A member of Romney's finance team from Florida, who also is a friend of Perry's, said Romney is going to continue criticizing Obama and talking about the economy and "not get into the personal types of things."