If Rick Perry’s latest TV spot in Iowa gives any indication, look for a lot more populist rhetoric from the Texas governor in the final days before the caucuses. Perry’s team launched this attack ad, called “Three Streets,” aimed at both frontrunners in Iowa. Perry claims Main Street as his constituency, while accusing Mitt Romney of representing Wall Street and Newt Gingrich of getting rich off of K Street:
Don’t underestimate the power of populism in Iowa. It’s not a coincidence that Iowa went in 2008 to the most effective rhetorical populists in both parties, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee. However, this attack on Bain Capital might make some of Perry’s recent conservative endorsers a little uncomfortable. When Newt Gingrich slapped Romney for getting rich off of bankrupting companies and destroying jobs, conservatives rose in mighty indignation over what they saw as an unfair attack on creative destruction, a key component of healthy capitalism. How is this different than Gingrich’s jab, which was at least prompted by Romney’s attack on Newt’s business dealings with Freddie Mac?
Politico notices Perry going the populist route, too:
Perry’s attack on Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney came as he plodded across northeastern Iowa on a bus tour in which he has desperately tried to position himself as “the only true outsider” in the race.
“The choice shouldn’t be between a Democratic spendaholic and a Republican spendaholic,” the underdog said.
Linking Washington with Wall Street has become a central part of Perry’s stump speech. It allows him to tar Romney for his experience at Bain Capital and Gingrich for his tenure as speaker of the House in one swipe.
“If this was a map of the United States, I could draw the problem in this country very vividly with a straight line between Washington, D.C., and Wall Street,” he told about 80 people who packed into a café here on this town bordering Wisconsin and Illinois for the fourth stop of the day.
“Over the course of the last 15 or so years…Wall Street insiders and Washington lobbyists and Washington insiders have jeopardized our future so much with special-interest self-dealing [and] corrupt, fraudulent activities. It’s not right. It’s unjust, and we’ve got to deal with it.”
Perry did not mention either Gingrich or Romney when using the word “corrupt,” which has powerful and even criminal connotations. But his language left little doubt that he was taking shots at his rivals.
Perry has little choice but to go on the attack at this late stage in an effort to erode the combined standing of Gingrich and Romney. Perry has run as an outsider since entering the race, so it’s not terribly shocking that he would point that out as a difference between himself and Gingrich, but Romney isn’t a Washington insider. It’s telling that Perry has chosen to attack Romney for his Wall Street experience rather than his track record as governor of Massachusetts, which offers a target-rich environment but hasn’t succeeded as a campaign strategy for Perry — or anyone else in this race. The question will be whether conservatives respond with the same high dudgeon to Perry’s attack as they did to Gingrich’s quip earlier this month.