Debate advice for Rick Perry – slam Newt!

The Texas governor needs a win, and he can get it by tying Gingrich to Mitt Romney. They're flip and flop VIDEO

Topics: Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, 2012 Elections, ,

Debate advice for Rick Perry – slam Newt!Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney (Credit: Reuters/Scott Audette)

This is Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s moment. The GOP primary campaign has always been an effort to winnow the many candidates down to two: Mitt Romney and Not Mitt Romney. It’s got to be killing Perry (assuming he feels any pain at all) to watch Gingrich emerge as the latest Not Mitt.

Gingrich is still surging in the polls – the latest to find him in first place is CNN – and while I think his history of selling himself to corporate America will ultimately turn off Tea Partyers, what do I know about Tea Partyers, anyway? I try to give them credit for ideological consistency – they supposedly hate crony capitalism, and Newt is its poster boy – but I may be politically naive in that.

That’s where Rick Perry comes in. The guy’s got enough money to be the Not Mitt. He’s never lost an election. Surely he’s got to have more substance than it’s seemed so far – he can’t really be a stoner frat boy let loose in a presidential race. Can he? I think he can redeem a series of horrible debate performances with a good pummeling of Gingrich Tuesday night.

And why not Rick Perry, really? He managed to hire some of the campaign staff who ditched Gingrich in June, after they figured out his campaign was mainly about shilling for Gingrich Productions and the Gingrich Group. And Perry hung on to them, even after some other Newt-ditchers returned once he became the new front-runner.  Perry’s Gingrich veterans have to have insight into how to unsettle him. Gingrich has gotten a free ride so far in the debates because until the last week or so, he’s been an also-ran, the tiresome, has-been uncle everyone smiles at when he makes a clever quip, or when he implores them not to take the media’s bait and turn on one another.

Rick Perry, it’s time to take the media’s bait and turn on Gingrich.

First, a couple of things not to do:

  • Don’t mix alcohol and pain medication, or Five Hour Energy drink and pain medication. I’m not saying you’ve done that before, I’m just saying.
  • Don’t attack Gingrich for calling child labor laws “truly stupid.” It was an abominable thing to say, but given the nature of these GOP debate crowds, it could be Newt’s biggest applause line of the whole campaign. Let’s face it, crowds who’ve cheered for the death penalty, letting uninsured people die of treatable illness, and an electrified border fence, and who’ve booed a gay soldier as well as your own plan to let the children of undocumented workers pay in-state tuition at Texas universities – well, they’re not going to reject Gingrich for wanting to put children to work. Forget about that one.

So then, what to do?

  • Do make clear that Gingrich and Romney are ideological chameleons separated at birth, the brothers Flip and Flop. Gingrich has changed positions almost as much as the Mormon the Tea Party loves to hate, in the course of making millions. He supported the individual mandate and planning for “end of life care” until the Tea Party turned those things into Obamacare and “death panels.” I know this debate is about foreign policy, and that’s not one of your strong suits (you’re still trying to find a strong suit, besides fundraising). But Gingrich’s bald-faced fakery on the question of Libya is a great issue. It’s actually worse than Herman Cain’s long brain-freeze, because nobody expects Cain to know anything. Pretend Gingrich is that coyote who messed with your daughter’s dog. If that really happened. Which it probably didn’t. Pretend whatever works.
  • Do pretend Gingrich is President Obama. You’ve treated the president with such practiced, suave contempt. You questioned whether he really loved his country, and you said the discredited, disgraceful birther issue — questioning whether Obama was really born here, after he’d released his long- and short-form birth certificate — is “a good issue to keep alive.” Practice that Obama-contempt in the mirror, and then Tuesday night, in the debate, turn it on Newt Gingrich. He deserves it more than Obama does. The president got 66 million votes, 53 percent of the total, in 2008. Gingrich came from a small Georgia district and squandered the political “mandate” that made him speaker by being an arrogant grifter. Pick a worthy enemy, and have fun. You can’t get to Obama without going through Gingrich, at this point. Why not enjoy it?

I talked about Gingrich’s latest outrages — backing the reversal of child labor laws and telling Occupy Wall Street protesters to “get a job” and “take a bath” Monday night on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.” With Christmas approaching I realized that Gingrich, who once proposed putting the children of welfare recipients in orphanages, is a real-life Dickensian character who must, every year at this time, root for Scrooge.

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