Romney’s plan of attack against Perry

With the last few polls showing Rick Perry as the frontrunner in the Republican field for president, Mitt Romney is no doubt trying to figure out how to slow that train down. Pver the Washington Post, Marc Thiessen explains Romney’s plan:

If Perry fails to implode and continues to surge in the polls, Romney eventually will have to go on the attack — an assault his advisers say will commence “at a time of our choosing.” Romney strategists are quick to note that in his book, “Fed Up!,” Perry writes that “By any measure, Social Security is a failure” and calls the program “something we have been forced to accept for more than 70 years now” that was created “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”

Look at what happened to Paul Ryan when he proposed a plan to save Medicare, they say. Romney’s campaign will argue that Perry is against the very idea of Social Security and Medicare, and that he will use Perry’s book to scare seniors in early-primary states with large retiree populations, such as Florida and South Carolina.

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. Without mentioning Perry by name, Romney pointed out at a town hall here in Dover that he vetoed similar legislation as governor of Massachusetts, declaring, “If you say, guess what, if you come here illegally, your kids will get [in-state tuition], that draws more people here illegally.” Romney strategists believe the immigration issue will be devastating for Perry with Tea Party Republicans across the country — and especially in important primary states like Arizona.

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. They will tar Perry as an old-style Texas, pay-to-play, career politician whose state is worse off now than when he first took office. They will contrast Perry’s quarter-century in government with Romney’s 25 years creating jobs in the private sector. Romney hinted at this line of attack at a town hall meeting in Keene last week, declaring, “I won’t just have been somebody who watched jobs be created, I actually created jobs.. . . I spent four years in government. I joke that I didn’t inhale.”

Perry will have answers for these and other charges, and attacks of his own planned for Romney. But Romney’s team believes that Republicans want, above all, a nominee who can beat President Obama — and points to a recent Mason-Dixon poll in Florida that shows Romney defeating Obama handily if the election were held today, while Perry is in a statistical dead-heat with Obama. (Other polls show Perry well ahead of Obama in Florida.)

The Romney campaign will argue that Perry repels independents and can’t win in key swing states such as Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan — while Romney can.

Smart politics, of course, but some of these points are these points are things we’d hear from Democrats, specifically on entitlements. Sure, Perry has expressed some problems he has with Social Security, including that it’s a Ponzi scheme and unconsitutional (sorry, SCOTUS got that one wrong).

As I’ve noted before, Perry is going to run on the jobs created in his state during the recession. That is going to be a strong rhetorical points during the GOP primary and it’s not something that Romney will be easy to dismiss. Immigration and electability are both points that Romney will really have to hammer against Perry, but those two issues - much like traditional social issues - probably aren’t going to be a the forefront of Republican voters’ minds.

Perry may eventually fade if he doesn’t do well in debates and winds up having a major gaffe. Perry is reaping the benefits of conservatives and tea partyers distrust of Romney.

Romney’s problems are ultimately his fault and while he may chip away at Perry’s sizeable, he has a lot to do as far as winning over skeptics.

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