Rick Perry vs. Conventional Wisdom (The Note)

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

Though the conventional wisdom continues to harden around Mitt Romney as the “inevitable” nominee, day in and day out, Rick Perry is trying to prove it wrong.

The Texas governor is bringing experienced, non-Texan advisers into his inner circle and pushing ahead on fleshing out his own policy positions on the economy this week. Perry is adding two national strategists with recent presidential campaign credentials — Curt Anderson and Nelson Warfield — according to a report from Time’s Mark Halperin.

Anderson served as a strategist for Romney in 2008, an outreach director for George W. Bush in 2000, and as a senior strategist for Steve Forbes’ 1996 run. Warfield, most recently, served as a consultant for Fred Thompson’s 2008 presidential bid. Halperin noted other strategists will likely be added to the staff.

On the policy front, Team Perry is poised to roll out a flat tax proposal this week in South Carolina.

“Governor Perry believes — and our plan will be predicated on the belief — that Americans are fed up with current tax rates, the over-complicated tax code, excessive federal spending/debt and over-regulation,” according to a Perry aide who previewed it.

But the question now is when the Texas governor can truly put Romney on defense. A story in the Los Angeles Times today, headlined, “Medical help for illegal immigrants could haunt Mitt Romney,” could help drive the kind of narrative Perry has been trying to push since last week’s debate in Las Vegas.

“The Massachusetts healthcare law that then-Gov. Mitt Romney signed in 2006 includes a program known as the Health Safety Net, which allows undocumented immigrants to get needed medical care along with others who lack insurance,” reports the Times’ Noam Levy. http://lat.ms/nzuwU4

For Perry, who last week re-opened a line of attack on Romney’s alleged hiring of illegal immigrants to do yard work years ago, today’s report could be a good opportunity to put some chinks in Romney’s armor. How many more of these chances the Texan will get between now and the beginning of January, and how much they will matter, is unclear.

ABC’s Arlette Saenz contributed reporting.


OBAMA’S NEW SLOGAN: ‘WE CAN’T WAIT’ ABC News’ Ann Compton previews the president’s day and his message: “President Obama is coining a new campaign slogan for a three-day western campaign fundraising tour, along with executive action that would not need Congressional approval on some mortgage and student loan relief. ‘We Can’t Wait’ is the battle cry he takes first to Las Vegas,  where this afternoon the President intends to stand on the front porch of a home and announce that his administration will ease the rules for homeowners who want to renegotiate their federally backed mortgages.   In Las Vegas, one in every 39 homes is in foreclosure, the worst rate in the nation. The President’s action would “knock down these barriers which will help responsible borrowers with little or no equity in their homes take advantage of today’s low mortgage rates,” according to an administration official.  ’Those will include removing caps for deeply underwater borrowers and cutting costs of refinancing’ for families with federally-backed mortgages.  In Colorado on Wednesday, President Obama will announce easier rules on repayment of college loans.”

GOP COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. Meanwhile, ABC’s Jonathan Karl notes that Republicans have dubbed the President’s trip out west this week the “West Coast Misery Tour.”  To help mark the occasion, there are several competing Republican web videos — including one from Mitt Romney —  hammering the president for the state of the economy in the states he is visiting, especially Nevada, which has led the country in unemployment and foreclosures. But the harshest video comes from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is gearing up for a big Senate race in Nevada next year. WATCH: http://bit.ly/pb1HtN


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf and Devin Dwyer interview the religious scholar and analyst, Joanna Brooks, who has written extensively about Mormonism. Also on the program, singer, songwriter and occasional political ad voice Robert Davi. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc  



DISGRACED LAWMAKERS MAY BE GONE, BUT THEIR CAMPAIGN FUNDS LIVE ON. “The handful of members of Congress who have resigned amid scandal in recent years have maintained active campaign accounts, federal records show, and they have spent tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions on legal fees, travel, public relations consultants and, in at least one case, the salary of a family member,” The Hill’s Russell Berman reports. “Former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) spent more than $130,000 in campaign funds in the three months after he resigned from the House on June 24, according to new filings with the Federal Election Commission. That total was more than what all but three of the 11 sitting members of New York City’s House delegation spent during that time. Weiner’s campaign reported more than $10,000 in travel expenses during the third quarter, which began a week after his resignation became official. The campaign spent another $25,000 on consulting firms and “policy research,” and slightly less than $30,000 on legal fees. … Weiner is just the latest example of a member of Congress whose campaign committee remains active months or even years after he/she has left office. Federal law allows candidate committees to cover expenses related to an ex-member’s time in office, but forbids the personal use of campaign funds. Former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), who resigned in March 2010 under allegations of sexual harassment and groping, spent nearly $12,000 during the past three months. … Former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) has spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on legal fees since he resigned his seat in April following the disclosure that he had an affair with the wife of one of his top aides.” http://bit.ly/pZIRtI

NEVADA MOVES CAUCUSES BACK TO FEB. 4, AVERTING MORE CALENDAR CHAOS. “Nevada Republicans on Saturday moved the GOP presidential caucus to Feb. 4, giving up their No. 3 spot in the nation’s early voting line-up to end a standoff with New Hampshire over the election calendar,” the Las Vegas Review-Journal Laura Myers notes. “State party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian noted Nevada would still hold the first caucus in the West. And she said the Silver State remains a major prize in the early going of the White House race, especially if leading GOP candidates split victories in the first four states. ‘We could be the tipping point in the race,’ Tarkanian said. ‘Anything can happen in the first four states. And we’re first in the West.’ In this stage of the presidential contest, Mitt Romney is favored to win in New Hampshire and Nevada, while his Southern conservative rivals such as Herman Cain are proving more popular in Iowa and South Carolina while Florida could be up for grabs. Former Gov. Bob List, a GOP national committeeman, said that as a swing state Nevada remains a key battleground in both the primary and caucus season as well as in the 2012 general election. ‘I think Nevada is going to be very relevant in the presidential sweepstakes,’ List said. ‘And we are very much respected for stepping up and resolving this dispute with New Hampshire.’” http://bit.ly/qp9Mvs

MORAL OF THE STORY: “The Nevada Republican Party learned a tough lesson this week: if you take on New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner and his state’s first-in-the-nation primary, you will lose,” the Daily Caller’s Alexis Levinson notes. “The Nevada GOP stood firm, but it quickly became clear that there was little support for their position. Five of the Republican presidential candidates vowed to boycott the Nevada caucuses if the date were not moved. Iowa Republicans denounced Nevada’s intransigence. The Republican National Committee stepped in and asked Nevada to move their date back. Ultimately, Nevada caved. Through all this, Gardner came to be seen as a larger than life figure, single-handedly able to hold the entire primary schedule hostage to his particular demands. Nevada political commentator Jon Ralston referred to him as ‘King Bill,’ and a new Twitter hashtag, #billgardnerfacts, was born to describe his mythic feats.” http://thedc.com/ntlUgD

DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES STEER CLEAR OF OBAMA. “Despite President Barack Obama’s sagging poll ratings, top Democratic leaders from around the country insist they’d love for him to visit. From state party chairmen to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the message remains remarkably consistent: No one views the president as a political liability,” Politico’s David Catenese and Alex Isenstadt note. “Roughly a year out from the 2012 presidential election, that may be true. But already, as Obama’s most recent forays into battleground states indicate, there are growing signs that many Democratic politicians don’t want to get too close to him either. In trips to Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania — all states that he carried in 2008 — members of Congress were notably missing from the president’s side. Though none came out and said they were deliberately avoiding him, they didn’t have to: Dodging a presidential candidate who’s riding low in the polls is a time-honored political practice. … In North Carolina, only Sen. Kay Hagan, who isn’t up for reelection until 2014, and veteran Rep. Mel Watt, who represents a majority black seat, appeared with the president. The state’s other six Democratic House members took a pass, offering a variety of excuses.” http://politi.co/r0x69C

WILL THE TEA PARTY ‘SETTLE’ FOR ROMNEY? “Time is running out for tea party leaders hoping to shake up the GOP presidential nominating process. … Tea party rhetoric has dominated pre-primary jockeying, but conservative activists may decide to sacrifice ideological purity and settle for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in hopes of nominating a candidate who could actually win,” reports Roll Call’s Janie Lorber. “‘Political reality sets in for most people who genuinely want change,’ said Brad Card, a lobbyist at Dutko Grayling who has already given more than $15,000 this cycle to Republican candidates, including Romney. ‘Mitt Romney is the one steady in the race — the one comfort blanket.’ The tea party at first seemed to be considering an anyone-but-Romney approach, with Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain each generating enthusiasm from that crowd at different points this year.” http://bit.ly/qJolcV

MICHELE BACHMANN’S WEB OF WORDS. “Michele Bachmann was laying out a tough immigration policy recently when she veered off script to make a point that she said underscored the national security implications of a porous border,” reports the Los Angeles Times’ Seema Mehta. “‘Fifty-nine thousand this year came across the border, as was said in the introduction, from  Yemen, from Syria. These are nations that are state sponsors of terror,’ the Minnesota congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate said, citing a report she had heard. “They’re coming into our country!’ There were two problems with Bachmann’s passionate assertion. Yemen is not a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the State Department. And the Border Patrol report to which Bachmann referred said that although 59,000 apprehended illegal immigrants came from countries other than Mexico, only 663 had ties to countries with links to terrorism. … Voters here frequently say they are drawn to support Bachmann’s presidential campaign by the litany of statistics and facts that stud her speeches. Yet what she says is often inaccurate, misleading or wildly untrue. All politicians occasionally shade the facts to their advantage. The danger for Bachmann is that her misstatements are so pronounced and so numerous that they erode her effort to regain footing in the presidential race. (Asked for reaction, a campaign aide provided information unrelated to the statements in question.)” http://lat.ms/njdjhX


@ ellencarmichael : I’d argue that the Lt. Gov.’s race in Louisiana had far more significant implications than  @BobbyJindal‘s relatively unchallenged re-elect.

@ RealClearScott : Cain’s IA spox tells  @jdickerson he might show up on Caucus Day. Next IA trip not until mid-Nov  #iacaucus  slate.me/nQzsXX

@ AmyEGardner : The “flipper” is in the House at the NH statehouse this morning, where Romney will file his papers shortly.  instagr.am/p/RS8A2/

@ jeffzeleny : A story you should read today: Peter Baker on Leon Panetta in a new NYT series “The Next War.”  nyti.ms/pzsU41

@ HowardKurtz : Charlie Rose tells me he’s talking to CBS about co-hosting Early Show, is “intrigued” by taking a non-traditional approach. In Newsweek.


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