One way to deter Mitt Romney in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination would be to wage a slash-and-burn campaign of television ads against him. After another lackluster performance in last night's GOP presidential debate, that seems to be what Texas Gov. Rick Perry is prepared to do.
Perry raised $17 million in the last quarter, more than any other GOP candidate, so he will have sufficient money to finance an air campaign in the early battleground states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida. And he is likely to do it soon, GOP strategists say, because the first caucuses and primaries are only about 90 days away.
Romney remains ahead of his rivals in most opinion polls for the GOP nomination. Republican veterans say that, as the nominating contests approach and as time slips away, attack politics might be the only way to stop him. [Read why the early primary hurts Perry and helps Romney.]
Perry has used harsh critiques against his opponents throughout his political career in Texas. And he gave a preview of things to come this week when he released a hard-hitting web video attacking Romney for his support as governor of the controversial Massachusetts healthcare law. The Perry ad says that law cost thousands of jobs and was the template for the national healthcare overhaul that President Obama backed and that remains extremely unpopular among conservatives. The ad seeks to tie Romney not only to Obama but also to former President Jimmy Carter, a derided figure among conservatives. Carter endorsed Romney's healthcare reform.
In the New Hampshire debate last night, Romney defended that law as appropriate for Massachusetts but added that he wouldn't impose it on the entire nation.
Romney was widely viewed as the winner of the debate. He showed his usual steadiness and an ability to deflect potentially embarrassing questions. Perry, who is still in the top tier of GOP candidates, took a back seat to other GOP hopefuls, including businessman Herman Cain, who is surging in the polls.