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Does Rick Perry have a Karl Rove problem?

at 06:30 AM ET, 08/17/2011


Karl Rove, former Deputy Chief of Staff and senior adviser to President George W. Bush, speaks during a panel discussion at the 2008 Mortgage Bankers Association Conference and Expo on Oct. 21, 2008, in San Francisco. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Republican professional political class stayed (largely) silent in the wake of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s suggestion that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke might be acting in a “treasonous” manner.

But, one prominent Republican didn’t seem to get the memo.

“You don’t accuse the chairman of the Federal Reserve of being a traitor to his country,” said former Bush White House senior adviser Karl Rove in an interview with Fox News Channel. “And, suggesting that we treat him pretty ugly in Texas — you know that is not, again, a presidential statement.”

Rove’s willingness to publicly scold Perry is a reminder that the two men (or at the very least Rove and Dave Carney, Perry’s chief strategist) have a long and, some suggest, rocky relationship that dates back more than a decade.

“It’s no secret that there is no love lost,” said one senior D.C.-based Republican.

While there’s little debate about the tension, there’s a more active debate about whether the two mens’ past will have any impact on Perry’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination next year.

Before assessing what the Rove-Perry relationship might mean, let’s revisit how it started.

Back in 1990, it was Rove, a leading Republican consultant in Texas who recruited Perry, then a state House member who had switched to the GOP a year earlier, to take on the popular Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.

Perry won that race and won reelection to the post in 1994. Four years later, Perry ran for the open lieutenant governor’s office as George W. Bush — Rove’s prized client — was cruising to a second gubernatorial term with an eye on running for president in 2000.

As the lore goes, Perry and Carney, his new chief political strategist, wanted to go negative on John Sharp, the Democratic nominee. Rove resisted and Perry went on to win a very narrow victory.

Carney, who remains Perry’s most senior political adviser, calls the idea of a rift between he and Rove a “huge urban myth,” adding: “I have no animosity towards Karl. So I don’t know where this all comes from.”

Most Republican operatives, however, insist that there is something between the two camps; “Perry was a Rove client at one time,” said one senior GOP operative. “He isn’t a Rove client now. Something happened.”

What’s more debatable is whether the relationship (or lack thereof) between Rove and Perry will have any lasting impact on the presidential race to come.

Rove is a major player in Republican circles, particularly when it comes to the GOP’s universe of major donors. (Rove was involved in the founding of American Crossroads, a leading outside group supporting Republican candidates.)

He is also a prominent commentator — he is a Fox News contributor and a Wall Street Journal columnist — and is well-regarded by establishment Republicans.

Rove’s influence and access, then, could make things difficult in certain circles for Perry. But, those familiar with the situation insist that Rove’s comments about Perry and Bernanke reflect less an ill will directed toward the Texas governor than a desire to be a honest broker within the GOP.

“[Karl] is constantly on the air, and he’s got to have something to say about everybody,” said one high-level Republican strategist. “It’s understandable that anything he says about Perry is going to be looked at through a different prism.”

The Perry-Rove dynamic is one to watch. Even if the two men (plus Carney) have put past differences in the past, their well-known history together makes for a fascinating narrative as the Texas governor continues to make his debut on the national stage.

Perry doesn’t back off Bernanke comments: Despite some suggestions that he committed a gaffe by accusing Bernanke of something close to treason, Perry isn’t backing down.

He told CNN’s Peter Hamby that he stands by the remark, in which he suggested Bernanke’s printing more money between now and November 2012 would amount to a politically motivated trick to prop up the economy — and something that is deserving of some Texas-style justice.

“I am just passionate about the issue and we stand by what we said,” Perry said.

Perry says HPV mandade ‘a mistake’: Perry said this weekend that a 2007 order requiring Texas girls to get a vaccine for the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer, was a mistake.

Perry has come under fire because his former chief of staff worked as a lobbyist for the company pushing the vaccine, and also because conservative activists said it encouraged promiscuity.

“The fact of the matter is that I didn’t do my research well enough to understand that we needed to have a substantial conversation with our citizenry,” Perry said.

While somewhat of an in-the-weeds issue, Perry’s decision was controversial in Texas and could prove a liability in the campaign ahead. Perry had previously defended the move.

That former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, is now working for a super PAC supporting Perry’s candidacy.

Cuccinelli versus Warner?: Virginia’s 2012 Senate race is just getting off the ground, but we may have a matchup for 2014 already.

State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), who has also been mentioned as a potential 2013 candidate for governor, told the Post’s Anita Kumar that he is eyeing a run against Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) a year after that.

And Cuccinelli already seems to be plotting a strategy, talking about Warner’s voting record in Congress.

“He has a really liberal caucus,’’ Cucinnelli said. “It wouldn’t be hard to articulate an alternative to Harry Reid in the Democrat caucus.”

Cuccinelli, a leading national opponent of Obama’s health care bill, could face a primary with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling if he wants to run for governor. Otherwise, he can run for reelection to his current post in 2013 and/or for Senate in 2014.

Warner is a popular former governor who led the recent Gang of Six talks on the debt-limit deal. Beating him will not be easy.

Fixbits:

Perry complains about a law that doesn’t exist.

The controversy over a license plate commemorating Texas’s Confederate past could give Perry headaches.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) takes on ... Warren Buffett.

Potential Massachusetts Senate candiate Elizabeth Warren is making the rounds as she considers running against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

The NAACP will fight the North Carolina Republican Party’s new redistricting maps, arguing that the GOP is over-concentrating black voters to dilute their influence. If successful, the challenge would invalidate a map that endangers four Democratic incumbents.

Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters sues over a Democratic-drawn map in Illinois that would endanger several Republicans.

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) re-ignites some of the birther controversy.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) says he may not support Obama’s reelection.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, during his first media blitz as the new Republican Governors Association chairman, confirms he would be interested in being someone’s vice presidential running mate.

Former President Bill Clinton sticks his nose into the competitive Nevada special election.

Must-reads:

Rick Perry backed an already-climate-crusading Al Gore in ‘88” — Bob King, Politico

Romney vs. Perry: How the Numbers (and the Calendar) Stack Up” — Sean Trende, Real Clear Politics

Romney calls for common ground, hails tea party” — Matt Viser, Boston Globe

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