Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is steeling for a long and combative fight for the Republican nomination, dropping his front-runner’s strategy and preparing to confront Mr. Perry on immigration, his quarter-century in government and his claims of creating jobs in Texas.
Gov. Rick Perry is privately being coached to come across as more presidential — cautious in his comments, deliberate in defending his Texas record — while building on his fast start by trying to consolidate support across the Republican spectrum, from the Tea Party and evangelicals to the party establishment.
At The Texas Tribune, Jay Root writes:
Rick Perry, taking a dig at rival presidential candidate Mitt Romney on his home turf, urged New Hampshire voters Saturday to steer clear of Republicans who seem too much like the president they want to replace.
Perry did not mention Romney by name, but it fits Perry’s strategy of portraying himself as the more conservative alternative to the former Massachusetts governor. It was also the most overt signal yet that the Texas governor will soon have to distinguish himself from his GOP rivals and not focus exclusively on the Democratic incumbent.
“In the coming months you’re going to hear a lot of appeals from my Republican friends who are running for president,” Perry said. “Let me just go on the record and say they’re all good men and women, but … we don’t need a nominee who is going to blur the differences between themselves and Barack Obama.”
As Jay Root also reported a few days ago, Romney is trying to reverse the insider/outsider dynamic:
He hasn't gotten to wear the "front-runner" crown for very long, but Gov. Rick Perry is already discovering that it comes with a price tag: His rivals are starting to unload on him.
The de-throned Mitt Romney, knocked out of his once sizable national lead according to a batch of recent polls, has essentially been ignoring Perry. But Tuesday morning in San Antonio, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Romney took a thinly veiled swipe at the Texas governor.
"I have spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy,” Romney said. “Career politicians got us into this mess, and they simply don’t know how to get us out.” He didn't mention the governor by name, but on Perry's home turf, no one had to ask, "who could it be?"
It was the clearest sign yet that Romney will attempt to make an issue of Perry's nearly three decades in elected office.