Turf Wars: Mitt Romney Campaigns In Rick Perry's Texas (The Note)

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry, left, speaks to workers at Epoch Homes Aug. 18, 2011 in Pembroke, New Hampshire. Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney listens as he is introduced d
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Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has been knocked off his front-runner pedestal in recent polls by Rick Perry, heads to the Lone Star State for the first time since the Texas governor shook up the presidential race earlier this month.

Romney speaks this morning to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in San Antonio while Perry is elsewhere in the state raising money. The former Massachusetts governor has avoided taking direct swipes at the man who is now his chief rival for the Republican presidential nomination, but that's starting to change.

"I am a conservative businessman," Romney will say in Texas today, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks obtained by ABC News. "I have spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy. Career politicians got us into this mess and they simply don't know how to get us out."

Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen quotes Romney strategists today as saying that the attacks will start "at a time of our choosing." But a new CNN-Opinion Research Corporation Poll out yesterday indicates that time may be running out.

The national poll, taken Aug. 24-25, shows Perry leading the GOP field with 27 percent. Romney is in second place with 14 percent and Sarah Palin, not yet an official candidate, is running in third with 10 percent.

Perry jumped 12 points since early August, while Ron Paul dropped 6 points, going from tied for third to tied for fifth place. Without Palin and Giuliani on the ballot, Perry's lead over Romney doesn't change all that much (32 percent for Perry compared to 18 percent for Romney) and Michele Bachmann moves into third place with 12 percent. http://bit.ly/rbv0qT

In his Post column, Thiessen outlines several potential lines of attack for Team Romney, including using Perry's past statements that Social Security "is a failure" against him.

"The Romney campaign also plans to use immigration to drive a wedge between Perry and his conservative base, by highlighting Perry's opposition to a border fence and legislation he signed in 2001 allowing the children of illegal immigrants to attend Texas colleges and universities at in-state tuition," Thiessen writes. "Team Romney intends to undermine Perry's appeal on the right by painting him as the anti-government candidate who has spent most of his life in government -- first as a state legislator, then as agriculture secretary, lieutenant governor and governor." http://wapo.st/mX0DLN

Romney's reference in his speech today to "career politicians" is as much a dig at Perry as it is at Democrats in Washington.

When and how to mount a major anti-Perry offensive will be as big, if not a bigger question for the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, as it will be the Romney campaign. They've got $12 million to spend they sure won't be using it on soft and fuzzy ads.

Moreover, putting Romney, himself, in the attack-dog position a tough sell. Remember how badly he did when he tried the attack thing during the 2008 campaign? Romney is already viewed so skeptically by the GOP electorate and he may not have the credibility to do the attacking.

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