Romney, Dems Look to Weaponize Bachmann

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Team Romney Hopes Bachmann Will “Rip [Perry’s] Eyes Out”

“Romney’s strategists note that Perry will have to survive five debates in six weeks — ample opportunity for Bachmann to ‘rip his eyes out’ (as she did to Tim Pawlenty) or for Perry to blow himself up.”

-- Washington Post column by former Republican Senate spokesman and George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen

Mitt Romney is going into the lion’s den today.

Romney is neither a veteran nor a Texan, but he is heading to San Antonio, Texas to address the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention one day after Gov. Rick Perry, who is both a veteran and a Texan, fired up the crowd with a patriotic paean to American exceptionalism.

But with poll after poll showing Romney slipping into Perry’s wake, the former Massachusetts governor is keen to show that he’s not backing down. The latest CNN survey has Perry nearly doubling Romney among all candidates running or considering a run and with a share of voters larger than Romney and third-place Rep. Michele Bachmann combined when only declared candidates were offered.

While Romney has a low and slow strategy that relies on his presidential plausibility and big fundraising to outlast more exciting contenders, including Perry, that strategy would cease to be viable if the insiders and money men backing Romney came to believe his candidacy was doomed. To avoid being marginalized, Romney must demonstrate to the political press that he has a plan to knock down Perry.

Hence the trip into the heart of Perry country and hence today’s big Romney leak.


Marc Thiessen, the speechwriter for George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld who is now a Washington Post columnist, laid out for the first time the strategic view from inside the Romney camp.

Much of the Romney knock on Perry echoes what can be found on the front page of the New York Times today (and, probably, most days until Election Day) that finds that Perry is both insufficiently consistent in his conservatism but simultaneously too radically conservative.

This is backed up in Romney’s oft-repeated implicit argument that Perry has spent an awful lot of time in government for a guy who opposes big government, while Romney spent only four years in public office (Not for lack of trying, though. Romney lost previous bids for a Senate seat and the presidency.)

But the heart of the Romney strategy seems to be to stand back and allow Bachmann to tear apart Perry – to “rip his eyes out,” as she did to Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

The Romney team hopes Bachmann will force the Texas governor into unsustainably conservative positions that would damage his general election chances, a refusal to take such positions that earns him the same kind of disdain in which Tea Partiers already hold Romney or a damaging personal conflict with the only female candidate in the field.

This is the same approach that Democratic strategists have taken to the Republican field in general. The more Bachmann, the better. While Romney foresees Bachmann tearing down Perry and then his own fortunes rising in the next four months, Democrats are hoping that Bachmann hangs around all the way through a long, brutal primary process.

Bachmann’s support seems to have leveled off in the low double digits, and many Democrats hope that she will be able to sustain a devoted following into the winter so that she can continue to push the GOP field to the right and continue to serve as their preferred face for the party.

But while Romney hopes that Bachmann will do to Perry what she did to Pawlenty, it bears remembering that Pawlenty’s candidacy ended not because of Bachmann but because he failed to excite any core group of supporters. Pawlenty tried populist conservatism, hawkish foreign policy and even direct attacks on Romney’s controversial mandatory health insurance law, but failed to connect. Bachmann didn’t chase him out, he let himself out after being unable to connect with voters.

Perry has both a committed core and broad appeal and as he slides into the frontrunner slot he will find it easier to do what Romney could do before – fly above the fray of other candidates.

One of Bachmann’s congressional colleagues said that plans by Romney and Democrats to use Bachmann as a toll against Perry and the rest of the GOP could backfire.

“I have never seen anyone so consistently underestimated as Michele,” the lawmaker said. “Anyone who thinks that she can be manipulated doesn’t understand her commitment to the issues that matter to her or her deep sense of patriotism.”

Veterans Vote Will Matter More in 2012

“We cannot concede the moral authority of our nation to multilateral debating societies. And when our interests are threatened, American soldiers should be led by American commanders."

-- Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars annual convention in San Antonio, Texas

This year, for the first time in 112 years, there will not be a top-level White House official speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention.

The administration told FOX News that the group had been offered an address from U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, which would be kind of like offering the president of Coke to speak at the Pepsi bottlers association.

What’s galling to the VFW is that not only is Obama speaking at the rival American Legion convention today, but that Vice President Joe Biden will be flying over Texas today in between a visit to a green energy outfit in Las Vegas and a Democratic fundraiser in Oklahoma.

While the Obama administration has made veterans charities a high priority and has earned high marks in the veterans community for the sympathy the first family and second lady Jill Biden have given to military families, Power Play still predicts that Obama will lose the veteran’s vote by a massive margin.


Not only does the military skew Republican, but many in uniform dislike the president’s specific policies. Aside from allowing gay service members to openly express their sexualities, there’s also the compromise surge in Afghanistan and a growing list of global military commitments.

The veterans’ vote hasn’t been nearly as important as it was in most of the 20th Century. The current president has no military record and in the Republican field, Rick Perry and Ron Paul are the only veterans. If Obama were to face Romney, it would be the first time since 1944 that both major parties nominated men who had not served in uniform.

But one of the consequences of an interventionist foreign policy has been a surge in the number of veterans. Some 5 million have mustered out of the military since 1990. Plus, there are more than 1.5 million veterans of all eras in the must-win swing state of Florida.

Tax Tactics Limit Obama’s Options on Jobs

“I will be laying out a series of steps that Congress can take immediately to put more money in the pockets of working families and middle-class families, to make it easier for small businesses to hire people, to put construction crews to work rebuilding our nation’s roads and railways and airports, and all the other measures that can help to grow this economy.”

-- President Obama previewing his long-promised, but still incomplete jobs plan

In his remarks Monday announcing the appointment of his new top economic adviser, labor economist and Princeton professor Alan Kruger, President Obama hinted strongly that he plans to announce small-bore initiatives on jobs and the economy.

When the president unveils his long-promised “laser focus” on jobs next week, lawmakers can expect to see a repackaged version of various proposals from the administration: patent reform, highway repairs, a continuation and expansion of existing payroll tax breaks and a few other chestnuts.

The president seems to want to keep the mini-stimulus separate from the other big battles brewing in Washington: the expiration in 33 days of the continuing resolution currently funding the government and the soon-to-convene super committee tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in cuts to release another debt ceiling increase for Obama.

When it comes to debt and deficit, Obama’s focus has been on convincing Republicans to permit tax increases as part of the package to reduce the ocean of red ink at the Treasury. But, if Obama opens up the broader discussion of tax reform outside of the debt, he will be moving onto Republican turf. GOPers’ preferred stimulus of the moment is to close loopholes in the code to reduce rates, thereby creating a revenue-neutral tax break. The president wants the loophole money to pay for new stimulus spending now and debt reduction later.

As much as the president is hemmed in by a bipartisan lack of interest in more deficit spending, even for jobs programs, he is equally constrained by his insistence on a “balanced approach,” meaning tax increases. He does not want tax reform to become a stimulus discussion but rather remain a debt debate.

Liberal economists are holding out hope for a floated proposal that would have the federal government lower mortgage rates to borrowers with poor credit, but so far the idea of a massive jobs program seems unlikely.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“You watch him sitting at a desk in NOAA in the middle of the hurricane and ask what exactly is he doing? I know you aren’t supposed to ask questions like that. The picture is supposed to speak for itself. But you wonder what extraordinary intellectual powers is he applying?

But remember, on the night he won the nomination in 2008 he promised that that night would be remembered as a night on which the earth began to heal and the rise of the oceans to slow. So I guess he at least was fulfilling a campaign promise that he slowed the rise of the oceans, and you really have to give him all the credit for that.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report w/Bret Baier

***Mitt Romney is headin’ to Perry country today. Can the former Republican frontrunner hold his own against the party’s new darling? Juan Williams debates it with Chris. And President Obama says he has a plan to get people back to work now, but so far, details are scarce. Peter Barnes of the Fox Business Network lays out what we know so far. Plus, battleground Rep. Steve Stivers from Ohio. Don’t miss a minute on Power Play w/Chris Stirewalt at 11:30a ET on ***