Fighting Words: Rick Perry Takes On Obama, Romney, Bernanke (The Note)

Aug 16, 2011 8:36am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — In the space of less than 24 hours, the 2012 presidential race’s newest candidate — Rick Perry — managed to call President Obama the “greatest threat to our country,” raise questions about rival Mitt Romney’s record as governor of Massachusetts and suggest that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke might be close to committing a “treasonous” act.

It was a busy Monday for the Texas governor on his third official day as a Republican presidential contender, and he wasted no time firing a series of opening shots.

“If this guy prints more money between now and the election,” Perry said at an evening meet-and-greet here, referring to Bernanke, “I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we — we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous — or treasonous in my opinion.”

When asked in a follow-up interview whether he thought that the Federal Reserve was playing politics to try to help President Obama, Perry replied: “If they print more money between now and this election, I would suggest that’s exactly what’s going on.”

During the same speech, which he delivered at dusk in a backyard in Eastern Iowa, Perry noted that President Obama was campaigning in the same state this week — in fact, they were just 100 miles away from each other last night — and advised Iowans what to ask him.

 “I think it’s fair for Iowans to ask the president tomorrow, where are the jobs that you promised, Mr. President?” Perry said. “That’s a fair question to ask this man.”

He said, “He’s gonna talk about jobs, but I think the only job he cares about is the one he’s got.”

Earlier in the day, at the Iowa State Fair, Perry drew a contrast between himself and Romney, inviting reporters to “take a look at his record when he was governor, take a look at my record … that's apples to apples.”

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, Romney took a veiled shot at Perry and most of his fellow Republican rivals, saying “I think understanding how the economy works by having worked in the real economy is finally essential in the White House.”

Nevertheless, both he and Perry, while acknowledging their GOP opponents, focused their fire mostly on the president yesterday. And the President, on his own bus tour, trained his fire on GOP Congress.

“The problem is, is that we’ve got the kind of partisan brinksmanship that is willing to put party ahead of country, that’s more interested in seeing their political opponents lose than seeing the country win,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in Decorah, Iowa last night, adding: “ I’m pretty frustrated about that.”

A little more than an hour after President Obama made those comments Perry was asked whether he thought the president loved America. “You need to ask him,” Perry replied.

BOTTOM LINE: While Perry's performance in Waterloo, Des Moines and Cedar Rapids over the past 48 hours showed us his promise as a retail campaigner, his remarks yesterday questioning Obama's patriotism and suggesting that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke would be treated "real ugly" down in Texas showed us his more undisciplined side.

Perry's greatest strength is his ability to go toe-to-toe with the president on the economy. Anytime he gets off that message, he makes it easier for Obama and the Democrats to paint him as a trigger-happy cowboy not ready to be the leader of the free world. Perry is like a rocket sitting on a huge vat of fuel. He's either going to blast off or blow up.

ABC’s Arlette Saenz contributed reporting.


@TonyFratto: Gov. Perry's comments about Chmn. Bernanke are inappropriate and unpresidential.

@EWErickson: I always laugh at the lefties who suddenly are concerned about patriotism and country first after 8 years of undermined Bush keeping us safe


DEMOCRATS VS. PERRY. The Democratic National Committee fired back at Perry’s attacks on President Obama this morning: “All of these attacks — and Rick Perry's candidacy itself — are all the more interesting coming from someone who would have needed a passport to visit Iowa if he had his way,” DNC spokesman  Brad Woodhouse said in a statement. “On just day three of his campaign, Rick Perry said he would have allowed the U.S. to default on its debts, and unleashed inflammatory schoolboy taunts at the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Suddenly, the rest of the Republican field is looking positively thoughtful.”

In case you missed it, watch Jake Tapper’s Nightline report on President Obama’s  three-state "rural economic bus tour" — and the symbolic start of campaign season in Iowa:

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos to Tapper on “Good Morning America” today: “It feels like October 2012”:


PERRY PAYS RESPECT TO IOWA CAUCUSES: It’s “a lot of probin’ and lot of feelin’ and touchin’ and talkin’ and vetting the candidates and asking questions … it is a good process.”


LUCK BE A TEXAN? The New York Times explores the debate over the record of job creation in Texas that Rick Perry will be touting every day on the campaign trail: “Texas is home to at least one-third of the jobs created nationwide since the recession ended. The state’s economy is growing about twice as fast as the national rate. Home prices have remained stable even as much of the country has seen sharp declines. Is Texas lucky, or has the state benefited from exceptional leadership?” asks The Times’ Clifford Krauss. “As Gov. Rick Perry campaigned Monday in Iowa for the Republican presidential nomination — with the economy dominating the national political landscape — the answer to that question is central to his candidacy. …  some economists as well as Perry skeptics suggest that Mr. Perry stumbled into the Texas miracle. They say that the governor has essentially put Texas on autopilot for 11 years, and it was the state’s oil and gas boom — not his political leadership — that kept the state afloat. They also doubt that the Texas model, regardless of Mr. Perry’s role in shaping it, could be effectively applied to the nation’s far more complex economic problems. ‘Because the Texas economy has been prosperous during his tenure as governor, he has not had to make the draconian choices that one would have to make in the White House,’ said Bryan W. Brown, chairman of the Rice University economics department and a critic of Mr. Perry’s economic record. And if Mr. Perry were to win the nomination, he would face critics, among them Democrats, who have long complained that the state’s economic health came at a steep price: a long-term hollowing out of its prospects because of deep cuts to education spending, low rates of investment in research and development, and a disparity in the job market that confines many blacks and Hispanics to minimum-wage jobs without health insurance.”

THE NOTE’S BOTTOM LINE: Texas' job growth and Romney's corporate experience come with inconsistencies and controversy. The question, however, is whether and what will matter more to voters. After all, when just 16 percent of Americans think the economy is getting better and 70 percent think the country is headed off track, the "devil you don't know" may feel less risky than it would have felt in better times.




ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Amy Walter and Devin Dwyer interview former senate candidate and author Christine O’Donnell, who has a new book out called “Troublemaker.” Also on the program, Alex Conant, former communications director for the Tim Pawlenty 2012 campaign who will join “Top Line” live from Minneapolis three days after Pawlety dropped out of the presidential race. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. 


“TOP LINE” REPLAY: Presidential candidate Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer, III, told ABC’s “Top Line” why he was skipping Iowa for New Hampshire.  “It's the first vote. Iowa is a caucus, kind of manipulated,” Roemer, the 67-year-old former Louisiana governor said. “You could vote in the poll there Saturday, [but] it costs you $35 to vote. You know, we made that against the law in America.” “You don't have to pay a poll tax to vote. New Hampshire still lives free or dies,” he said. “It's where this race will be decided.”  


WHITE HOUSE WATCH: OBAMA’S ROAD SHOW CONTINUES. President Obama will host a Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa this morning. According to the White House, it will bring together a variety of stakeholder “to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities.” Later, the president will join Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for a discussion about promoting agricultural innovation. Obama will deliver closing remarks at the forum in the afternoon and conduct a series of local media interviews.

ROMNEY VS. OBAMA: “During his campaign swing in Iowa yesterday, President Obama once again said he wants to increase taxes during this economic crisis,” Mitt Romney said in a statement. “I had hoped he would have gotten off his campaign bus to talk with workers and employers about real solutions that will help get this economy moving again. Instead, he is more concerned about his own job than helping to create jobs for the millions who are unemployed.”

@andreamsaul: NEW #ObamaIsntWorking VIDEO on things being "worse, much worse" in Iowa as @BarackObama rolls into town



FOLLOWING THE MONEY: ROMNEY RAISES EYEBROWS. “Amidst the millions of dollars worth of blue chip stocks, precious metals and high yield Goldman Sachs holdings listed on GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney's financial disclosure forms is a $1 million-plus investment in a hedge fund called Elliott Associates, LP,” reports ABC’s Matthew Most. “While the investment is unlikely to provoke much reaction on Wall Street, the name is instantly recognizable in Republican political circles as that of the multi-billion-dollar hedge fund run by one of the most sought after, undecided GOP donors in the United States — Paul Singer. ‘He's an immensely powerful person given his stature in the financial world and politics, given that he has been willing time and again to put his money behind candidates,’ said Sheila Krumholz, who tracks campaign money for the Center for Responsive Politics. The decision to invest a hefty chunk of Romney's vast fortune with a top GOP mega-donor may have had nothing to do with Romney's courtship of Singer as a potential donor to his presidential campaign. Romney aides note that the candidate's investments are held in a blind trust and the candidate has no say over where the money landed. Gail Gitcho, a Romney spokeswoman said, ‘They do not control the investment of these assets. The assets are under the control and overall management of a trustee.’ Still, the timing of the investment has raised eyebrows among GOP insiders who believe it nicely illustrates one rarely-considered advantage to being the wealthiest candidate in the presidential field.”

SUPERCOMMITTEE, SUPER RISKY. “Congress might be headed for a super turf war,” according to Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn. “The 12-member supercommittee needs to find its $1.5 trillion in spending cuts from somewhere — and that means treading on the jurisdiction of some very powerful committee leaders who may not be happy to have ceded a significant amount of authority on perhaps the biggest spending cut bill in American history. There have been other specially created committees in recent years, dealing with everything from homeland security to global warming. As the heads of those special panels learned, turf matters. Some lawmakers wait decades to get a gavel, and when they get one, they protect it with all they've got. The House and Senate Agriculture committees, for example, will want to defend mandatory conservation, energy and export programs tied to the farm bill. Transportation and Infrastructure-related panels are keeping close taps on the multibillion-dollar highway trust fund that's up for reauthorization shortly. Defense authorizers won't want to submit to major cuts to the Pentagon budget. And so on.”

FIRST IN, FIRST OUT. PAWLENTY’S DOWNFALL. “Ultimately, it all came down to the actual candidate, as it should. People just weren’t all that in to Tim Pawlenty. Back in May, before the former Minnesota governor threw his hat into the presidential ring, the pundits talked up Pawlenty as the possible chief rival to GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney. Pawlenty, they said, had it all: a top-notch campaign staff, no skeletons in the closet, a resume highlighted by two terms as governor of a blue state, a blue-collar background, few if any real enemies. Unlike his opponents, he didn’t have any obvious downside – no health care plan like Romney, no gaffes like Michele Bachmann, no work for President Obama like Jon Huntsman, no fringe stature like Ron Paul. On paper, it almost looked like the perfect candidacy. … There was only one problem: the candidate himself. He just wasn’t that good.” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe looks at the reasons why Pawlenty was forced from the presidential race last weekend:  

WHAT’S NEXT, WISCONSIN? “The Wisconsin recall fight ends Tuesday, and while the state Senate is no longer in play, Republicans could cut into the gains Democrats made last week. One Democratic seat in tomorrow’s election is probably safe; the race for the other one is very close,” The Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner reports. “State Sen. Jim Holperin appears to have the slight edge in the hotly-contested 12th district as a well-liked incumbent, but increased Republican enthusiasm in this GOP-leaning territory makes it basically a toss-up. Right now, Republicans have a 17-to-16 majority in the state Senate, thanks to the Democratic victories in last Tuesday’s recalls, when six Republicans faced challenges and two lost. A GOP victory tomorrow would futher discourage Democrats and labor in the Badger State. Democrats had hoped to take control of the upper chamber and fell one win short.”



@ByronYork: GOP operatives fear lasting Ron Paul problem.

@markknoller: Congress an easy target for Pres Obama – with approval ratings lower than his. Most recent CBS/NYT poll shows Congress with 14% approval.

@jdickerson: If you run against Congress as the president is, doesn't it require that people think congress could do better or is relevant?

@TheFix: Is Iowa a swing state?

@SeanTrende: RealClearPolitics – Romney vs. Perry: How the Numbers (and the Calendar) Stack Up


(all times local)

* President Obama hosts a rural economic forum in Peosta, Iowa.

* Rick Perry tours a roofing company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa hosts a roundtable with business leaders in Dubuque and a meet-and-greet in Walcott.

* Michele Bachmann attends the Bachmann for President Spartanburg Rally at 12:30 p.m. in Spartanburg, S.C. At 3 p.m., she attends a town hall in Greenville.

* Jon Huntsman's wife, Mary Kaye Huntsman speaks to Charleston County Republican women in Charleston, S.C., at 11:30 a.m. At 5:30 p.m., she speaks at the Midlands Republican Women Social in Columbia.

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