Fox News reports on an anti-Rick Perry group run by a college kid:

Its first video questioned Perry’s record on fiscal discipline, pointing to the Trans-Texas Corridor as well as his residence in a rental mansion estimated to cost taxpayers $10,000 per month.

[Michael] DeMatteo said his concern is that Perry may be too flawed to win.

“We cannot afford to have basically another four years of a Bush clone or somebody who can’t win in a general election,” he said. “We don’t want to see somebody who has a good stump speech but is unable to govern — we’ve seen that with Obama.”

The mansion controversy may pop up frequently. Another group, Texans Against Perry, which is tied to Democratic groups, has also tried to draw attention to the home’s price tag. Records obtained last year by The Associated Press showed the rental mansion was costing more than $10,000 month — with rent, utilities and upkeep included.

The first family moved into the home in 2007 while the state capital’s more than 150-year-old governor’s mansion was undergoing repairs. But in 2008, the official mansion was severely damaged in an arson attack, prolonging the amount of time it would take to restore the building.

Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner claimed there was nothing out of the ordinary with the governor’s living arrangements.

“Unfortunately, the historic Texas governor’s (residence) was fire-bombed by an arsonist several years ago and is currently being rebuilt,” he said in an email to “The Governor and First Lady have lived with the same accommodations as Texas first families before them, a decision that has long been entrusted to the legislature to determine, and he will continue to leave such decisions up to them.”

The Texas press corps and anyone who’s spent some time looking at Perry’s record knows this is a half-hearted response. As I previously reported(quoting a RealClearPolitics report):

RealClearPolitics reporter Scott Conroy points out that the Texas Republican has some questionable taxpayer-funded spending habits that may not pass muster with cost-cutting conservatives.

Here are some highlights from Perry’s publicly-funded personal spending bill, via RCP:

$700,000 for the “lavish” rental home where Perry has lived for nearly four years, while the governor’s mansion is being renovated.

$8,400 for maintenance on the house’s heated pool.

$1,001 for Neiman Marcus window coverings.

$1,000 for repairs on a filtered ice machine.

$70 for a home subscription to Food & Wine magazine (this one is sure to draw populist ire).

Perry has previously come under fire for taxpayer-financed house bills. In 2007, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee — a conservative favorite who lived in a trailer while his governor’s residence was under repair — suggested Perry should follow his example and find a good mobile home. Perry’s response: “Texas ain’t Arkansas.”

The spokesman’s answer is the sort of back-of-the-hand response that’s good enough for a popular governor. But its accuracy is questionable and likely won’t stand up to scrutiny in a presidential race.

Likewise, with a minimal amount of fuss, Perry was able to seal his travel records in the last state legislative session, which his critics say would reveal lavish and extensive travel for Perry and his wife. What is the acceptable explanation for keeping those records hidden? Were his travel expenses reasonable?

When you are riding high in the polls, it is tempting to brush off nettlesome issues. But in fact, now is the best time for Perry to explain and/or apologize for his extravagances. He is enjoying a lot of good will from conservatives, and it would be foolhardy to give his GOP opponents a gotcha moment in the debate. And, moreover, why not clear the decks before a general election, if he’s confident he’ll get the nod? Republicans hungry to retake the White House should insist he be forthcoming in the primary.

Far better in a month or a year for Perry to say, “Hey, I’ve already dealt with that.” Inexperience and ego may work against the Perry team on this one. Now is no time to fall prey to the self-delusion that state scandals have already come out. All of this, of course, is news to the national electorate, and he should swiftly respond to the concerns.