As I reported earlier today, Karl Rove’s remarks are the first explicit challenge to Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Social Security. The issue is an important one, and not just for the general election; South Carolina and Florida have loads of retirees who will want to know the candidates’ views.

I asked Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan if Perry still believed in devolving Social Security to the states. He emailed: “In the past, local governments were permitted to opt out of Social Security and provide those municipal employees other retirement options. A number of Texas counties took advantage of that option. Options like this, as well as other changes for younger workers, should be part of a national discussion.” It’s not clear where Perry is going with this. Will employees be allowed to opt out? What if state systems go belly up?

I asked if Perry had any specific plan in mind. Sullivan answered: “There’s plenty of time for a more detailed plan. After all, Governor Perry has been a candidate for less than 30 days.”

He’s right and he’s wrong on that score, I think. Perry surely has months until Iowa, and many voters aren’t paying much attention right now. However, having joined the race late, he now has to go face-to-face with candidates that have detailed proposals on a number of topics. Both Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman put out specific economic plans, for example. If Perry is not up to speed and ready to match his competitors, will he seem underprepared? Will his competitors begin to tag him as anti-Social Security in states with lots of retirees?

It is noteworthy that many Republicans were pining for a run by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) because he had thought deeply about major issues and was armed with specific reforms. (That’s reason just to crib from his plans, of course.) The pace of a presidential campaign in the early going is leisurely, but right about now, things pick up. Perry is a good pol, but he better be ready to show he’s got some policy chops as well, and before his opponents start characterizing his views.