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What Rick Perry learned from Donald Trump

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been running for president for a month.

In that time, he has called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme”, affirmed his belief that the Obama Administration is “socialist” and suggested that “maybe it’s time to have some provocative language in this country.”

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He has also rapidly emerged as the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

Coincidence? We think not.

In the days following businessman/reality television star Donald Trump’s decision not to run for president, we penned a piece that examined the lesson the Donald taught the GOP field.

That lesson? That Republican voters badly wanted someone to fight President Obama, rhetorically, on every front and at all times.

Trump chose an issue — Obama’s citizenship — that wasted his fundamental insight because it was so outside the mainstream and so easily proven false.

But the seed of Trump’s idea — casting oneself as a fighter willing to take it to Obama — is now bearing fruit for Perry, who met with the “Apprentice” star Wednesday night.

“There may be someone who is an established Republican who circulates in the cocktail circuit that would find some of my rhetoric to be inflammatory, or what have you, but I’m really talking to the American citizen out there,” Perry told Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin and Rick Stengel in an interview published Thursday. “I think Americans are just tired of this political correctness and politicians who are tiptoeing around important issues.”

(Sidebar: Is there any better political scapegoat than the “cocktail circuit”? And is there an actual “cocktail circuit”? If so, The Fix would like to know when and where it meets.)

While Perry’s current status as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination is typically attributed to his conservative positions on most issues, it’s actually the way in which he talks about those positions that may matter more.

He is unapologetically confrontational — both with Obama and his Republican rivals. He is proudly anti-intellectual. And he is openly disdainful of everyone and everything in Washington, D.C.

In some ways, what Perry says is besides the point. It’s how he says it that matters more to Republican voters desperate for someone they think gets it and is willing to go all out to beat the president next fall.

Tone always matters in politics, but especially so in presidential politics.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty had a record plenty conservative enough to appeal to his party’s base but he oozed “nice guy,” which was not what Republicans are in the market for these days. And we all know how that campaign turned out.

In his Time interview, Perry attributed his quick rise in the race to Republican voters “looking for someone whom they can be excited about.”

That sentiment is the right one, although we’d say it slightly differently. Perry is the fighter Republicans have been waiting for. Expect him to keep swinging.

Axelrod seeks to recapture narrative: Obama isn’t losing his base, and the Republicans Party is having just as rough a time as he is, according to a new wide-ranging memo from top adviser David Axelrod.

The memo, which is addressed to the producers of the Sunday political talk shows, notes polling that says many of the ideas contained in the president’s jobs plan poll well, and that the president himself isn’t doing so bad with his base, relatively speaking.

“Despite what you hear in elite commentary, the President’s support among base voters and in key demographic groups has stayed strong,” Axelrod writes. “According to the latest NBC-WSJ poll, Democrats approve of his performance by an 81%-14% margin. That’s stronger than President Clinton’s support among Democrats at this point in his term and, according to Gallup, stronger than any Democratic President dating back to Harry Truman through this point in their presidency.”

Axelrod also argues that the GOP’s presidential candidates are too busy appealing to the tea party, and he notes that the reputation of Republicans in Congress is at a historic low in recent polling.

The memo is the first in a series of memos that Axelrod plans to issue.

Latinos unsure of Obama in GOP poll: Obama’s support among Latinos has dropped in some key states where they will play a major role in the 2012 election, according to a new GOP poll.

The poll of 1,200 Latinos in the swing states of Colorado, Florida and New Mexico shows that some Latinos who voted for the president in 2008 aren’t sold on reelecting him. The poll was conducted by Ayres, McHenry and Associates for the GOP polling consortium Resurgent Republic.

In Florida, where Obama took 57 percent of the Hispanic vote three years ago, just 48 percent of Latinos think he deserves reelection. He took 69 percent of Hispanic vote in New Mexico, but only 58 percent there say he deserves another term. In Colorado, Latinos are a little more on-board, with Obama having taken 61 percent of the Hispanic vote, and 58 percent still saying he deserves another term.

Obama still holds wide leads on the generic ballot among Latinos in all three states, by the margins are smaller than they were in 2008 in Florida and New Mexico.

The poll comes on the heels of plenty of data suggesting Obama has fallen out of favor with Latinos. His approval rating has declined from over 80 percent early in this presidency to below 50 percent, according to recent numbers from Gallup.

Republicans don’t have to win a majority of the Hispanic vote to have a successful election, but there are plenty of swing voters to woo. George W. Bush took 44 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2004, while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took just 31 percent four years later.

Jewish voters not as keen on Obama: Maybe there was something to that whole idea that Obama’s trouble with Jewish voters cost Democrats in the New York special election.

New data from Gallup shows four in 10 Jewish voters now disapprove of the president. That’s up from 26 percent in May. And given that Obama took 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, it’s a significant erosion.

New York’s 9th district is the most Jewish district in the country, and some suggested Obama’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has soured Jewish voters on his leadership.

Fixbits:

Newt Gingrich, ever unafraid of the political prediction, says Obama may face a primary challenge.

In his new book, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) also calls Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.”

Newly minted Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (D) beats back the Harvard attacks.

Former President Jimmy Carter says he would like Romney to be the GOP nominee. We’re sure Romney is thrilled to have his support.

Must-reads:

Money, politics still mix for most on Congress’ debt panel” — Rob Hotakainen and James Rosen, McClatchy

Republicans rewriting state election laws in ways that could hurt Democrats” — Krissah Thompson and Aaron Blake, Washington Post

Family Feud: Rick Perry versus the Bush machine” — Mark Hemingway, Weekly Standard

With Stakes for Bachmann Higher Now, Her Words Get in the Way” — Trip Gabriel, New York Times

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