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Pete has provided a shrewd reading of the polls below. He says, “My read is that Bachmann supporters who are worried about conservative authenticity think of Perry as more authentic than Romney, and Romney voters who are worried about governing competence think that Perry is more competent than Bachman.” This gives the edge to Perry, and Pete wonders in what ways Romney and Bachman can take him on.

Romney may gain an advantage if Bachman tries to push Perry on the conservative authenticity angle. She could press him on his HPV vaccine push in Texas public schools, his “corporatist capitalism” (as Tim Carney describes it), his apparent moderation on immigration . While not constitutionally inconsistent, his stance in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman on the one hand, and his being “fine” with NY’s same sex marriage law on 10th Amendment grounds on the other, could open up an angle of an attack in terms of conservative authenticity. She could push him on the “pop sov” notion, asking him whether he is “fine” with letting a state make a choice in favor of what is morally and politically wrong. Heck, she might even want to quote von Mises to the former D student in economics . Of course, Perry could rephrase what he said to the President, “Actions speak louder than words—or grades” (referring to his actual record regarding the Lone Star state’s economy). Perry would have answers to the other jabs as well, but it would be a fight that would sidetrack him from his front runner status.

If Bachman forces Perry to fight it out on these grounds she could dilute his conservative bona fides. As each “out-authentictys” the other, questions of electability would come to dominate the discussion in favor of Romney who still beats Obama in head to head polls. With such a scenario Romney could find enough wiggle room in enough states (back east? out west? midwest?) to eke out a plurality victory in the name of governing competence.

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