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Perry Evades on Social Security

September 12th, 2011 at 11:02 pm | 7 Comments |

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The fight between Perry and Romney continues. Perry came into this debate confident in his conservative bona fides and hoped to use the weight of that confidence to steamroll Romney. The former Massachusetts governor, for his part, responded with an array of facts, figures, and arguments.

The Social Security component was interesting. Romney ended up highlighting the distinction that many Perry partisans are trying to obscure: while Romney and many others have suggested that the financing of Social Security may be a problem, Perry in his most recent book has claimed that Social Security seems to be in some way contrary to the Constitution. Romney tried to get an answer out of Perry about whether he still thought Social Security was unconstitutional, but Perry seemed focused on avoiding answering that. If he wants to win the nomination and go on to the presidency, Perry is going to have to clarify his position on Social Security. Does he want to reform it (as he now says) or does he think it’s an unconstitutional abomination? Even in a rabidly pro-Perry audience (at least in the beginning), Perry seemed to stumble at certain points in this exchange. The audiences at debates with Obama won’t be so congenial.

Santorum and Bachmann have realized an electoral reality: their only path to the nomination is through Rick Perry. Bachmann knew she had a rough debate last week. So she came into this one looking for some moments, and she found them. She went beyond criticizing Perry’s Gardasil executive order as an overreach; she suggested it was due to undue corporate influence. That’s probably the most personal slam Perry has faced yet in the race posed by a rival. She also didn’t let Perry slide on his immigration record.

Bachmann regained her stride in this debate, and Santorum found it. Between hitting Perry, going toe-to-toe with Ron Paul, and offering relatively detailed answers to policy questions, Santorum positioned himself as a solid, competent conservative who is also electable (hence his persistent emphases on his ability to win in Pennsylvania). Some pundits might find Santorum’s references to events of the 1990s to be dated, but many voters (left, right, and center) look back on the 90s with fondness. Santorum may be trying to offer a path back to prosperity.

As with the last debate, Gingrich played the conciliator. As with the last debate, Ron Paul couldn’t wait to attack Perry as a conservative pretender, hitting him on increasing Texas taxes and spending.

Bachmann and Santorum may have succeeded in putting a few chips in the conservative finish of Rick Perry’s reputation. Perry has been greatly helped by the aura of authentic conservatism. If that sense is challenged, he could struggle more as a candidate.

In order to distract from last week’s Social Security debate, many Perry supporters went on attack against Romney, accusing him of taking from the Democratic playbook (apparently defending the Constitutionality of Social Security is supposed to be the purview of Democrats now?). If those attacks are doubled down on over the next few days, we might have an indication of how concerned Perry’s camp is over this debate.

I’d guess Perry lost ground tonight with the right (over immigration and Gardasil) and the center (over Social Security). Romney held his own. Bachmann and Santorum gained. I think the primary is still very fluid (as it should be). And there might still be room for other candidates to jump in.

Originally Posted at A Certain Enthusiasm

Recent Posts by Fred Bauer



7 Comments so far ↓

  • Graychin

    Perry would continue a program he believes to be unconstitutional. No one nailed him on that point.

    But it makes no difference. Perry clearly had the crowd tonight.

    Where have all the respectable Republicans gone?

  • hjmangalam

    This crowd makes Richard Nixon look like Dennis Kucinich.

  • CNN/Tea Party Debate: Rick Perry Gets Hit From All Sides

    [...] Fred Bauer put it, Perry evaded on this issue, and he guaranteed that it will come up [...]

  • balconesfault

    apparently defending the Constitutionality of Social Security is supposed to be the purview of Democrats now?

    Hasn’t it been since 1935?

  • ottovbvs

    Still just the opening shots in a campaign that is going to continue into spring of 2012. If Perry’s support holds up and on the basis of that crowd last night from the couple of clips here and elsewhere, why shouldn’t it, then this could get enjoyably ugly.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    While Perry was defending the completely reasonable vaccine program (isn’t public health and safety a concern of government?) they had the camera on Santorum, who had a look of disgust…his upper teeth visible in a kind of sneer of disgust that was reminded me of a look someone has when they see vomit. Santorum really is an ugly man, inside and outside. And Santorum’s own rebuttal, that vaccines should only be provided by government when they prevent airborne contagions, was shocking in its stupidity. And he finished with Perry should have offered an opt-in and not an opt-out, at best it is semantic nonsense, at worst it is burying a worthy government initiative in bureaucracy.

    And Santorum lost his last election back in 2006 by 21 points.

    My impression is that Perry saved his ass with Hispanic voters last night, Romney’s response to how he would win hispanic votes was to say he would pretend that they didn’t exist.

  • TJ Parker

    So many problems in the country, and the whole field manages to evade discussion of all of them. Where’s the jobs plan? This whole Social Security love-fest is only a bit more substantial than debating who has the biggest flag pin.