With the plot of the GOP primary thickening like a bowl of cold chicken noodle, there are signs of serious party tension with the recent entry of Texas Gov. Rick Perry into the race.
Some observers feel it’s a healthy shakeup in a crowded field that needed a dose of energy for a slate of candidates some find lacking in everything from general election sex appeal to actual substance. Yet, strangely enough, a majority of Republican voters appear satisfied with their choices despite the mounting bad press on “corporations [being] people,” Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as “treasonous” and God punishing Washington with earthquakes and hurricanes.
According to an Associated Press-GfK poll, 64 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents like the picks, compared to 30 percent who are not.
In the breakdown, former New York City mayor and 2008 primary crash-and-burn Rudy Giuliani leads the pack with 50 percent “total favorable,” although he has yet to announce — compared to only 33 percent for Perry (even with the constant press) and Mitt Romney at 39 percent. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, running a renegade libertarian movement, is ahead of Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota, 37 percent to 35 percent, respectively. Sarah Palin, who is not officially a candidate, pulled 36 percent.
The new numbers from the AP poll suggest there’s still much more to heat up in the Republican field and are triggering new speculation that more folks could enter the race. Perry’s entrance has clearly stirred up the GOP establishment, much of it either Romney surrogates, who despise the Texas-crat as much as the former Massachusetts governor is said to hate him, or Bush political family operatives such as Karl Rove, who would prefer to see the former President George W. Bush’s one-time gubernatorial running mate go away.
The Bush-Perry rivalry is intense, with some signs suggesting the Bushes could team up with the Romneys in a bid to outwit, out-fund and all out crush Perry in a primary beat down. Perry already has gone lengths to distance himself from the junior Bush, bashing what he’s described as fiscal ineptitude and big government anti-conservatism. “The branding of compassionate conservatism meant that the GOP was sending the wrong signal, that conservatism alone wasn’t sufficient or, worse yet, was somehow flawed and had to be re-branded,” wrote Perry in his 2010 publishing hit Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington (ranking #267 in recent Amazon.com sales).
Recent comments by Rove, the former Bush White House senior adviser and political whiz kid, come within a hair of confirming whispers that the other Texas political family is dispatching the FOX News analyst to deliberately crowd the field as a way to push out Perry. Rove was talking open-field smack on FOX over a week ago by theorizing on bids by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin or Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey: “I’m getting the same sense from some of those people that maybe it’s wishful thinking on their part that they’re so enthusiastic about Paul Ryan or Chris Christie jumping into the race, that what they’re getting out of the conversation is what they want to hear. But there’s enough of that chatter that, I think, we’ve got to give it some credence.”
In essence, that was Rove’s way of pushing either two into the field. Anything to extinguish Perry’s fire.
That was followed a week later by Rove on Palin entering the race, snickering that she had “thin skin” based on constantly public indecision fueled by multiple Iowa appearances and interviews on cable. “[I]f we speculate about her, she gets upset,” quipped Rove, “and I suspect if we didn’t speculate about her she’d be upset and try and find a way for us to speculate about her.”
But, theories abound that Rove could be goading Palin into a hastily arranged primary entrance as a way to stir the Tea Party nest — and further split votes away from Perry. Palin has been known to foam at the mouth at mention of Rove, whom her camp views as a country-club golf caddy for establishment GOP politicians. Rove’s on-air teasing of Palin might be enough to make Palin step close to the brink and, possibly, make that jump.