David Brooks’ advice to Perry opponents: Make him seem corrupt

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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Texas Gov. Rick Perry has made an impressive charge in the polls since he announced his candidacy for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. So how does a guy like Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, take him on?

In an appearance on Friday’s “NewsHour” on PBS, New York Times columnist David Brooks explained that Romney will have to “do something aggressive” to remain formidable.

“He has only been in the race a couple of weeks but the polls moved to a degree that is almost unprecedented. He has catapulted and catapulted along all wings of the party. He is the guy they were waiting for: somebody who has a harder edge. Somebody who has very strong conservative credentials but who has been elected, run a major state, and I think Mitt Romney has to be thinking ‘I’m an outsider now. I’m behind and I have to do something aggressive to try to get back.’”

And times have changed, Brooks says.

“If this was 2008 with the 2008 electorate, Romney would win because there are a fair number of moderates who voted: About 40 percent of the people in the Republican primary were moderates in 2008. But the 2012 electorate is not the same as 2008. It is much more conservative. It’s much angrier. Rick Perry sort of fits the mold. So I think he’s real. I think he has to be considered the front-runner.”

However, Brooks also explained that it would take a different kind of strategy for Romney to beat Perry at this point in the game.

“There are three debates next month,” Brooks said. “If he doesn’t implode, then then you have to go after him. But you can’t try to pretend you are as conservative as he is. If Mitt Romney does that, it’s disastrous. It’s artificial. It won’t work. You can’t really attack him for being conservative the way [Jon] Huntsman has tried to do because that is where the party is.”

Brooks ultimately said it would take something scandalous involving Perry’s campaign funds to bring him down — and Brooks thought this wasn’t necessarily a far-fetched possibility.

“Somehow you have to shift things,” he continued. “And I think the most fruitful lines of attack are to say, ‘This guy is Tom Delay,’ which is to say he uses campaign money in funny ways to — not for principled reasons but for political reasons, to feather his own nest and his buddies’. And I do think he’s vulnerable on that.”