Let The Vetting Begin:Rick Perry Under The Microscope (The Note)

Aug 29, 2011 9:01am

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

Earlier this month, just days after he jumped into the presidential race, Rick Perry told an Iowa crowd why he liked their caucus process.

There’s going to be “a lot of probin’ and lot of feelin’ and touchin’ and talkin’ and vetting the candidates and asking questions,” Perry predicted at a county GOP event in Cedar Rapids on Aug. 16. The Texas governor was back in Iowa over the weekend and it was apparent the vetting was well underway.

The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs reported that Perry “dodged questions from two farmers at an Iowa Corn Growers Association meeting,” who were hoping to pin the governor down on ethanol policy. Not satisfied that Perry would do enough to protect his livelihood, one corn and soybean grower told the Register that while he loves what Perry says on other issues, “I just could not support him.” http://bit.ly/qsHCcH

It’s hardly just Iowans that are taking a closer look at the Republican contender, who last week leapfrogged Mitt Romney as the front-runner for the GOP nomination. A series of media headlines make clear that Perry, who has never had to endure the spotlight of a national campaign, is about to see his record in Texas, his comments on the campaign trail and even his personal life, picked over like never before.

“Rick Perry's 'Texas miracle': a demographic quirk?” reads a recent headline in the Christian Science Monitor. This weekend the liberal website, ThinkProgress, which dispatched a reporter to Iowa to cover Perry’s events on Saturday, ran a story titled: “Perry Says He Hasn’t ‘Backed Off Anything’ In His Book, Still Thinks Social Security Is Unconstitutional.”

Today a front-page story in the New York Times declares: “As a States’ Rights Stalwart, Perry Draws Doubts.” This morning, the Washington Post notes, “Rick Perry has distanced himself from George W. Bush’s brand of conservatism.” And the coup de grace: the headline of the article leading Politico’s website Monday morning, asks pointedly and simply: “Is Rick Perry dumb?”

As proof that Perry, the longest-serving governor in his state’s history, is not, in fact, “dumb,” a spokesman for his presidential campaign offered up this evidence to the reporter:

“In an illustration that Perry knows what he needs to know, his spokesman said the governor is currently reading Henry Kissinger’s recent China book — ‘On China.’ … Mark Miner, the spokesman, said Perry is also reading Charles Stanley’s ‘Turning the Tide,’ a Baptist pastor’s how-to for Christian conservatives who want to change the country’s direction, and the Bible. Perry also carries an Apple laptop as well as an iPad with him on the road, said Miner, who called his boss ‘an avid reader.’”

As the new kid on the block, Perry’s getting tons of ink — not all of it flattering. But will it matter? A GOP electorate hungry for a fighter and one with a record on job creation to boot may give Perry the benefit of the doubt they wouldn't give other GOP hopefuls.

 

PERRY ON STATES RIGHTS. The New York Times’ Manny Fernandez and the Texas Tribune’s Emily Ramshaw report that while Perry “uses the issue of states’ rights to give his candidacy an overarching them… he has been inconsistent in applying those beliefs, drawing criticism from some states’ rights advocates and raising questions even among fellow Republicans about whether his stance is as much campaign positioning as a philosophical commitment.” More from the joint report: “In one of his more well-publicized shifts, Mr. Perry proclaimed that gay marriage was an issue for individual states to decide, but backtracked in recent weeks and now says he supports a federal amendment banning gay marriage. … Despite his vocal opposition to what he has called “the unprecedented and massive federal overreach” of President Obama’s health care overhaul, Mr. Perry accepted a $1 million federal grant last October for planning to carry out one of its key provisions. … Although his 2010 book, “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington,” describes his outrage that federal bureaucrats distributed more than $245 billion in farm subsidies from 1995 to 2009, the governor received some of that money. Mr. Perry, a former West Texas cotton farmer, received at least $83,000 in federal farm subsidies between 1987 and 1998, during the time he was in elected office, according to his tax returns.” http://nyti.ms/mXfYE4

 

BACHMANN MIXES THEOLOGY AND METEOROLOGY. At a campaign rally in Florida yesterday, Michele Bachmann weighed in on the causes of recent natural disasters, including Hurricane Irene: "I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians,” she said according to the Tampa Tribune. “We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending." http://bit.ly/o637TN (h/t ABC’s Rick Klein)

 

ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE. ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter interview Rep. Bill Keating, D-Mass., the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management. Also on the program, Associated Press political reporter Beth Fouhy. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc 

 

THE BUZZ

THE PERRY-ROMNEY RIVALRY. “With Rick Perry and Mitt Romney now leading the field, the Republican 2012 presidential contest is creating a new chapter in the story of two men who have occasionally clashed and who have markedly different personal styles,” the Wall Street Journal’s Patrick O’Connor notes. “In 2006, during a meeting in Austin, Mr. Perry, the Texas governor, questioned a decision Mr. Romney, then the governor of Massachusetts, had made as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Mr. Romney had hired the media adviser Alex Castellanos for the group, though Mr. Castellanos was working for one of the candidates trying at the time to unseat Mr. Perry. In the meeting, Mr. Romney defended his decision, according to multiple people familiar with the exchange, and the shouting match that ensued has quickly become campaign lore. Mr. Castellanos declined to comment on the governors association. A year later, Mr. Perry chose not to endorse Mr. Romney for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Instead, Mr. Perry became the only sitting governor to endorse former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. … Aides to both men played down any friction. In an email, Perry adviser Dave Carney called rumors of a rivalry ‘urban myths,’ adding, ‘Gov. Perry's decision to run is not based in any way on what Gov. Romney and his first-class team has done or not done.’ Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said, ‘Mitt Romney considers Rick Perry a friend and believes he will add a lot to the discussion during the primary.’” http://on.wsj.com/qiArtQ

COLIN POWELL NOT SOLD ON OBAMA. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who famously crossed party lines to vote for President Obama in 2008, said today that he’s not necessarily supporting the president for reelection in 2012, ABC’s Rick Klein reports. “I haven’t decided who I’m going to vote for,” Powell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “Just as was the case in 2008, I am going to watch the campaign unfold. In the course of my life I have voted for Democrats, I have voted for Republicans, I have changed from one four-year cycle to another. “I’ve always felt it my responsibility as a citizen to take a look at the issues, examine the candidates, and pick the person that I think is best qualified for the office of the president in that year. And not just solely on the basis of party affiliation,” he said.  Asked about the Republican field, Powell said there are some “interesting candidates,” but no one who has “emerged into the leading position.” “So let’s see if anybody else is going to join, and we’ve got a long way to go,” he added. http://abcn.ws/pLjSQs  

ROMNEY’S TEA PARTY BALANCING ACT. “Mitt Romney says he’s on the same page as tea party activists, but some national organizations affiliated with the movement say the GOP presidential candidate hasn’t made much of an effort to get to know them,” writes the Daily Caller’s Alex Pappas. “In fact, these tea party organizers say they can’t recall the former Massachusetts governor ever speaking at a tea party gathering, unlike nearly all of his primary opponents. ‘To my knowledge, Mitt Romney has never requested to participate in one of our tea party events or rallies,’ said Jacqueline Bodnar, a spokeswoman at FreedomWorks, the Washington, D.C.-based organization led by former House leader Dick Armey. The group helped organize events like the 9/12 March on Washington in 2009 and annual ‘tax day’ rallies. Bodnar said there has been very little contact between FreedomWorks and Romney. … Another national figure in the movement, Mark Meckler, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, also said Romney ‘certainly never reached out to our organization, not that I’m aware of.’ … Other Republican candidates for president — former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (who has since dropped out of the race), Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Herman Cain, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and Texas Gov. Rick Perry — have all spoken at tea party events. Romney’s campaign did not comment when reached by The Daily Caller, but the former governor continues to make the point while on the trail that he fits in well with the conservative grassroots activists.” http://thedc.com/qQ8dM7

HOUSE GOP READIES FALL AGENDA. “House Republicans are planning votes for almost every week this fall in an effort to repeal environmental and labor requirements on business that they say have hampered job growth,” writes the Washington Post’s Paul Kane. “With everyone from President Obama to his Republican challengers in the 2012 campaign focusing on ways to spur economic growth, House Republicans will roll out plans Monday to fight regulations from the National Labor Relations Board, pollution rules handed down by the Environmental Protection Agency and regulations that affect health plans for small businesses. In addition, the lawmakers plan to urge a 20 percent tax deduction for small businesses. … The push for a jobs agenda comes as Obama, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and others plan to present their own jobs agendas just after Labor Day. In mid-August, shortly after lawmakers agreed on a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, just 13 percent of voters in a Gallup poll approved of the job Congress was doing, a record low. Some Republican strategists have been warning party leaders that the focus on cutting spending is not resonating with independent voters who are most concerned about a sagging economy and an unemployment rate that has exceeded 9 percent for more than two years.” http://wapo.st/ph3ji5

 

WHO’S TWEETING?

@carenbohan: Obama will announce today that Alan Krueger, a labor economist at Princeton University, is his pick to head the Council of Economic Advisers

@PounderFile: Great piece from @SalenaZitoTrib … "Battlegrounds of Resentment"is.gd/2BgunY

@samsteinhp: Pawlenty left the GOP primary with his campaign in debt: huff.to/rovQbt

@MPOTheHill: Trump, ever full of bluster, says he's spoken to all the GOP presidential candidates, including Perry "seven or eight times already."

@rickklein: 3 years ago today, top stories @ABC included "Sarah Who? Why John McCain Picked Palin," "Michael Jackson: 'I Feel … Very Young' at 50."

 

POLITICAL RADAR: 

(all times local)

* Rick Perry delivers remarks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in San Antonio, Tex. at 8:45 a.m. Perry will make a campaign announcement at the Tulsa Press Club in Oklahoma.  It is expected to be an endorsement from Sen. Jim Inhofe. He will hold a fundraising luncheon at the Tulsa Summit Club and another fundraiser at National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum tonight.

* Michele Bachmann campaigns in Florida, meeting voters at the Calistoga Bakery Café in Naples in the morning, followed by a Bay of Pigs Museum tour in the afternoon and a meet-and-greet at Versailles Restaurant in Miami later in the day.

* Jon Huntsman campaigns in South Carolina, announcing the endorsement of the state’s attorney general, Alan Wilson.

* Herman Cain wraps up his trip to Israel and returns to the U.S.

The Note Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV

 

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* For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/and ABCNews.com/Politics: http://abcnews.com/politics

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