Karl Rove: Let's face it, Perry's views on Social Security are "toxic"

Skip ahead to 2:10 for the key bit. Simple statement of a harsh political reality or sly attempt to shank a guy whom Team Bush isn’t keen on? Or both?

Jennifer Rubin e-mailed Perry’s spokesman to find out what, if anything, they plan to do to defuse the Mediscare bomb before Romney drops it on him. Answer: Nothing much yet.

I asked Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan if Perry still believed in devolving Social Security to the states. He emailed: “In the past, local governments were permitted to opt out of Social Security and provide those municipal employees other retirement options. A number of Texas counties took advantage of that option. Options like this, as well as other changes for younger workers, should be part of a national discussion.” It’s not clear where Perry is going with this. Will employees be allowed to opt out? What if state systems go belly up?

I asked if Perry had any specific plan in mind. Sullivan answered: “There’s plenty of time for a more detailed plan. After all, Governor Perry has been a candidate for less than 30 days.”

True, but he’s caught between having to define his position on entitlement reform before Romney does it for him and not wanting to stake out a position too soon lest it seem like he’s gung ho to take a scalpel to Social Security and Medicare. At the very least, he can’t roll out a plan on entitlements until after he’s introduced a broader economic plan or he’ll risk ceding his brand as the “jobs” candidate to Mitt. In fact, now that Romney’s introduced his own plan, he’s already at some risk there.

Question: How much of this can be finessed by Perry rhetorically? Obama sold ObamaCare to the left with the argument that a single-payer system would be optimal if we were starting over from scratch, but since we have to deal with the health-care system as it is, he had no choice but to incorporate the insurance industry into the plan. Perry could try something similar, insisting that his book dealt with entitlements in a theoretical vacuum but that public dependency on the current regime means we’ll have to pursue reform within its confines. He could propose a greater role for states in administering the programs pursuant to that — although how he’ll sell that idea with a straight face given the state of Medicaid, I have no idea.

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