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Rick Perry rides 'Ponzi' bull

As I expected, Republican presidential frontrunner

Rick Perry

couldn’t bring himself in his first  national debate to concede an inch from his tough stance that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” and “a monstrous lie.” And the more he defended himself, the more you could hear his biggest opponent

Mitt Romney

’s stock begin to rise.

I’m not alone. Quite a few conservatives could hear it, too, and, dag-nabbit, they’re none too happy about it, either.

“Are we all so damn scared of Rick Perry,”

, a

CNN

contributor, “that suddenly we’re going to abandon the fight for real reform of social security and try to make Perry look like a fringe candidate when, in fact, his position has been the mainstream of the

GOP

for decades?”

Yup, he’s right about that last party. The Ponzi position has been standard GOP boilerplate for years. But the hot potato at stake in the party’s primaries is not whether most Republican voters actually agree with Perry’s colorful rhetoric. It is whether Perry has just made himself less electable among independent swing voters. They’re the folks who will decide next November whether President Obama joins the nation’s unemployed.

, Perry’s grabbed hold of Washington’s biggest “third-rail issue” like he’s a scrappy young bull-riding rodeo cowpoke. I expect that bull—once again—to win. I say that after watching the program’s popularity humble such earlier challengers as

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George W. Bush
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,

Ronald Reagan

and Barry Goldwater.

“Maybe it’s time to have some provocative language in this country,” said Perry, doubling-down (Or is it tripling down by now? Whatever.)

Perry might be sincere in his desire to “save” Social Security, not wreck it. But who’s going to trust a man who calls the program a criminal fraud and, in effect, called Americans a bunch of suckers for believing in it for these many decades?

Romney’s campaign is

out of Perry’s imprudence, perhaps remembering

from

President Lyndon Johnson

’s 1964 campaign. It quotes one of Republican nominee Goldwater’s primary opponents who predicted the former Arizona senator’s nomination would lead to the “suicidal destruction of the Republican Party.” The opponent? Michigan Gov.

George Romney

, Mitt Romney’s dad. Goldwater lost. Big time. Politics is such a small world.

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