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Karl Rove says Rick Perry must explain some ‘toxic’ statements

With all eyes poised to watch Texas Gov. Rick Perry take on the rest of the Republican field, political analyst Karl Rove on Wednesday warned that the new leader in the race for the GOP presidential nomination will have to find a way to deal with past comments, especially his critical remarks about Social Security.

Speaking on “Good Morning America,” Rove said the Perry camp has to do more to explain the governor’s comments that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and a failure. Perry first used those terms in his book, “Fed Up,” but has repeated the sentiment in campaign stops.

Perry supporters “are going to have to find a way to deal with these things,” said Rove, a frequent contributor to Fox News and chief political aide to former President George W. Bush, who has feuded with Perry.

“They’re toxic in a general election environment and they are also toxic in a Republican primary,” Rove said of the characterization. “And if you say Social Security is a failure and ought to be replaced by a state-level program, then people are going to say ‘What do you mean by that?’ and make a judgment based on your answer to it.”

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Since announcing his candidacy, Perry has surged to the top of the GOP field, displacing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the leader in the race to win the Republican nomination in 2012. The debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley on Wednesday night will be Perry’s first such confrontation and test.

Unsurprisingly, Rove has been generally bullish about the GOP’s prospects as it heads into the election, but also cautious about the need to select a candidate who appeals beyond the most conservative elements.

Republicans “can blow it” by “having a candidate who could not appeal to the swing voters in this election who are conservative-minded independents, Latinos and white working-class voters,” Rove said. “The primary has to be a process by which our candidate is strengthened, not weakened, and emerges from the end of it ready to conduct a general election campaign for the voters who are up for grabs in this election.”

Polls show that Perry runs very well among conservative “tea party” movement supporters, but is less strong among other Republicans and independents.

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Still, Rove warned, it is still early in the nominating process. At this stage, four years ago, the leading candidates were former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, both of whom fell by the wayside.


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