- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A smoldering Texas political rivalry broke onto the national stage Tuesday as aides close to former President George W. Bush took potshots at the just-announced candidacy of Rick Perry, who succeeded Mr. Bush as governor in Austin 10 years ago.

On the day a poll named Mr. Perry the new front-runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, some prominent Texas Republicans say that anti-Perry forces, including the GOP’s “Bush wing,” are playing up stories to undermine the governor’s fledgling campaign.

Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s top political aide and a leading GOP strategist, was one of a number of one-time Bush aides questioning remarks made by Mr. Perry in the opening days of his campaign, including comments strongly critical of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and remarks Mr. Rove suggested were a bid to establish distance between Mr. Perry and his former boss.

Mr. Rove, a Fox News commentator, even suggested he had picked up “vibrations” that Mr. Perry may face strong new rivals for the GOP nomination from such figures as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who to date have not entered the field.

Tea party activists and former high-ranking party officials alike see Mr. Rove and other elements in the GOP establishment increasingly fearful over what they now regard as a serious threat that Mr. Perry can take the nomination.

Within three days of announcing his candidacy, Mr. Perry leaped to the front of the Republican field with 29 percent of likely voters saying they favor him in a new Rasmussen poll. Former front-runner Mitt Romney, the ex-governor of Massachusetts, plunged to 18 percent, and Saturday’s Ames straw poll winner Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota now runs a distant third, with 13 percent.

For his part, Mr. Perry has pointedly drawn contrasts between himself and the man he succeeded as Texas governor, saying that the second President Bush is the son of rich parents and went to Yale, while Mr. Perry attended Texas A&M.

The less-than-warm feelings between the Bush and Perry camps is no secret in their home state.

“There is absolutely a negative feeling those Bush people have toward Gov. Perry,” said former Texas GOP Chairwoman Cathie Adams. “It’s real — they are ginning up stories about others entering the race. I just hope they aren’t thinking of doing any more than that.”

She said an example of the long-standing Texas GOP feud emerged when Mr. Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, endorsed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in her challenge to Mr. Perry for the GOP nomination for governor last year. Mr. Perry won handily.

Another former Texas GOP chairman, Tina Benkiser, said, “Establishment Republicans aren’t happy if they are not running the show, and Gov. Rick Perry is his own man.”

While conservatives have long been critical of the monetary policies of Mr. Bernanke, Mr. Perry’s remark this week that Mr. Bernanke’s easy-money policies were “almost treasonous” brought more sharp criticism from Mr. Rove and other George Bush administration figures.

Pete Wehner, a former Bush White House aide, wrote in Commentary magazine that Mr. Perry’s use of the word “treasonous” was “the kind of blustering, unthinking comment that Perry’s critics expect of him.”

Added Mr. Rove: “Gov. Perry is going to have to fight the impression that he’s a cowboy from Texas. This simply added to it.”

By contrast, Mr. Perry got a small bit of sympathy from the man he is trying to replace. President Obama declined to take the bait when asked in a CNN interview Tuesday whether another Perry comment — that America’s military veterans would prefer to have a fellow veteran as commander in chief — was a veiled shot at his own lack of military service.

Mr. Obama, noting Mr. Perry had been in the race less than a week, said he would “cut him some slack” as he adjusts to the spotlight of a national presidential campaign.

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