Does the Rick Perry campaign have any strategy at all to deal with the fact that controversial views that will seriously complicate his chances in a general election are right there in black and white, in books with his name on their covers in big letters?
Last night’s debate and its aftermath bring still more evidence that he doesn’t have any plan at all.
Perry last night reiterated his claim from his book “Fed Up” that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme,” and insisted that promising to maintain it in its current form is a “monstrous lie.” Mitt Romney pounced. As Ben Smith reported, a Romney adviser claimed Perry is now toast: “No federal candidate has ever won on the Perry program to kill Social Security. Never has. Never will.”
This is true. And yet a day later, the Perry campaign is still struggling to clarify his position on what is now emerging as a central issue in the GOP primary.
My Post colleague Jennifer Rubin is pressing Perry’s camp to clarify where he stands on another previous controversial assertion: That we should allow states to run retirements benefits. The Perry camp responded by sending over two newspaper articles that only raise more questions about his position than answers. As Rubin notes, “What is surprising is how ill-thought-out this appears to be.”
This is part of a pattern. In response to questions about whether Perry still believes his book’s assertion that repealing the 16th Amendment would be a good idea, his campaign issued a statement that backed off his support for that position, and instead declared his support for more modest proposals. But then the campaign turned around and claimed that the statement hadn’t distanced him from his book’s views on the 16th Amendment. So does Perry still think repealing the 16th Amendment is a workable option, or not?
Another of Perry’s books compared homosexuality with alcholism. Pressed to say if he still believes this, the campaign simply didn’t bother answering.
I don’t know whether or not these views are viewed negatively by GOP primary voters. But his extremism and kookiness will certainly raise concerns among them about his electability, and the campaign’s refusal to come up with a coherent plan to deal with them will only further exacerbate those concerns and lead to more chattering-class and insider skepticism. There’s been a lot of talk about Perry’s Texas swagger and arrogance, but this seems to me to really typify it perfectly.