Rick Perry: The GOP’s New Front-runner

BY Terence Burlij  August 25, 2011 at 8:13 AM EDT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the leading Republican presidential candidate, according to a new poll. File photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Move over Mitt Romney, there’s a new front-runner in town, and his name is Rick Perry.

The Texas governor opened up a 12-point advantage over the former Massachusetts governor in the latest Gallup survey released Wednesday, despite — or perhaps a result of — a campaign launch marked by controversy.

In the past 12 days, Gov. Perry remarked that it would be “almost treasonous” for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to print more money, refused to say whether he thought President Obama loved America and cast doubts on climate change and evolution.

And now the newest entrant to the GOP field finds himself up 11 percentage points from his standing in Gallup’s July poll, which was taken before he was an official candidate. (A quick look at the numbers reveals where Gov. Perry might be drawing his support from: Romney fell six points, Michele Bachmann dropped three, and Tim Pawlenty gave up three when he threw in the towel after a disappointing finish at the Iowa Straw Poll.)

Of course, it’s always helpful to be reminded just how ephemeral success in presidential politics can be. Take a look, for instance, at where things stood at this juncture in the 2008 Republican nomination fight.

The challenge for Perry will be to sustain this trajectory, an effort likely to be made all the more difficult given the added scrutiny his rise in the polls will bring.

And while seeing one’s poll numbers go down can hardly be considered a good thing, those over at Team Romney will be only too happy to have someone else wearing the bull’s-eye for a while.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday on the first day of a two-day campaign swing through New Hampshire, Romney said his campaign would stay the course despite the shifting poll numbers.

“Look, I’m following the strategy I’ve had and that we’ve laid out from the very beginning,” Romney said. “If you’re running for president, your focus should be on the person who is president and his failures and how you’re going to make America better.”

With lots of time left in the GOP nomination battle, there isn’t an urgent need for the Romney campaign to diverge from its charted course at this stage. After all, the magic formula is, as former Des Moines Register political sage David Yepsen once put it, “Organize, organize, organize, and get hot at the end.”

ON THURSDAY’S NEWSHOUR: HUNTSMAN

Be sure to tune into Thursday’s NewsHour for Jeffrey Brown’s interview with GOP presidential hopeful and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntmsan. Check your local listings for times.

TWEET TROUBLE

A strategist for both Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Romney tripped over his dual tweeting life this week, accidentally revealing himself as the person behind CrazyKhazei, a fake Twitter account designed to mock Alan Khazei, a Democrat and possible Brown opponent.

The news broke after Fehrnstrom accidentally sent a CrazyKhazei tweet from his personal account.

Glen Johnson of the Boston Globe has many details on the story:

“‘I’m excited to announce that Cindy Creem is the newest hire at my charity, Be the Change,’ read the tweet posted by @EricFehrn at 8:05 p.m.

“The post pivoted off a pair of Globe stories this week. One noted that Khazei, founder of ‘City Year’ and ‘Be the Change,’ had hired his brother Lance to work for the latter charity. Another yesterday reported that his campaign had been endorsed by state Senator Cynthia Creem of Newton.

The tweet was subsequently removed, but not before BlueMassGroup and Kevin Franck, spokesman for the Massachusetts Democratic Party, noted it on their own Twitter feeds and blog posts.

In an email late today, Fehrnstrom admitted he was the person behind the “CrazyKhazei” tweets – but pointedly did not apologize for them.

‘It was my Twitter account,” the aide said in an email to the Globe. “Sometimes we take our politics too seriously and this was my way of lightening things up. As they say in politics, if you can’t stand the tweet, get out of the kitchen.’”

Johnson has a sample of some the things “CrazyKhazei” said on Twitter:

“‘Just got back from sunny California. Thanks to all the elitists there for donating to my campaign,’ read one July 31 tweet.

“‘I promise not to join the National Guard. Unlike Scott Brown, I will spend all my time with real people in Washington,’ read another.

“A third said: ‘Just read Scott Brown’s book. He isn’t the only one who had it tough growing up. I once got a splinter.’”

Now that Twitter has gone mainstream, expect more of these type of tricks from political operatives. Do these accounts have any measurable effect on the races? Probably not.

CHENEY’S HEADBUSTER

Former Vice President Dick Cheney, in his characteristically blunt style, has an edgy prediction for how people in Washington will react to his upcoming memoir: Their heads will explode.

Cheney gave his prediction to NBC’s Jamie Gangel:

“There are gonna be heads exploding all over Washington,” Cheney said. His book, “In My Time,” will hit stores Aug. 30.

So far, the details leaking out do not seem earth-shaking, but there are interesting details. For example, Cheney told NBC he had a secret letter of resignation kept in a safe in case he was incapacitated by illness.

The New York Times has a copy of the book. Charlie Savage gives a summary:

“Mr. Cheney’s book — which is often pugnacious in tone and in which he expresses little regret about many of the most controversial decisions of the Bush administration — casts him as something of an outlier among top advisers who increasingly took what he saw as a misguided course on national security issues. While he praises Mr. Bush as ‘an outstanding leader,’ Mr. Cheney, who made guarding the secrecy of internal deliberations a hallmark of his time in office, divulges a number of conflicts with others in the inner circle.

Inside the book, Savage reports, Cheney says he urged President Bush to bomb a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007, but Bush opted for a more diplomatic approach. Cheney also writes that he helped push out Colin Powell as Secretary of State after the 2004 elections because Powell criticized the president’s Iraq War policy.

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