Perry to Thump Trump as "Cancer" on Conservatives

Perry to Thump Trump as "Cancer" on Conservatives
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Rick Perry will intensify his attacks on Donald Trump in a speech Wednesday in Washington, D.C., in which Perry will call Trump’s campaign for president “a cancer on conservatism.”

“Let no one be mistaken: Donald Trump’s candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded,” Perry will say, according to excerpts of his speech provided to RealClearPolitics. Perry will deliver the speech as part of a forum organized by the pro-Perry Opportunity and Freedom PAC. 

As Trump continues to enjoy strong standing among Republicans in public polling, Perry will aim to dent the public perception of Trump by warning that he is “a barking carnival act” with the potential to gravely damage the Republican Party in the long term.

“(Trump) is without substance when one scratches below the surface,” Perry will say. “He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.” 

The speech has been on Perry’s calendar for weeks, but it will likely draw fresh interest in the aftermath of Trump’s remarks Saturday at the Family Leader summit in Iowa, when he disputed whether Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war, is a “hero.”

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.” Trump has since explained his comment further, but he has not apologized as most of the Republican field has urged.

It is hardly the first polarizing remark Trump has made as a candidate for president — yet he remains a powerful force in the Republican presidential primary, with a new poll sounding a fresh alarm: An ABC News poll published Monday showed Trump with 24 percent among Republicans nationally, followed by Scott Walker with 13 percent and Jeb Bush with 12 percent.

But the poll also shows a potential area of weakness for Trump, with a majority of Republicans saying he does not “represent the Republican Party’s core values.” Perry will look to advance that argument Wednesday by portraying Trump as the antithesis to “a conservatism that works.”

“The candidate who wins the Republican nomination for president will articulate the best vision of ‘a house united,’” Perry will say Wednesday. “It will be based on a conservatism that works … that appeals to our better angels … that believes in the power of the individual … through hard work and thrift … to get ahead.”

To date, Perry has been on the leading edge of Republican candidates taking Trump to task for his rhetoric. After Trump suggested in his campaign announcement speech that undocumented immigrants from Mexico are “rapists,” Perry called the phrasing “offensive.”

“Donald Trump does not represent the Republican Party,” Perry said pointedly in an interview with ABC News earlier this month. 

Following Trump’s remarks Saturday, Perry was even more unequivocal, declaring that Trump “should immediately withdraw from the race for president." 

And, in an op-ed published Monday by National Review, Perry characterized Trump’s rhetoric as “damaging to our party, and most important, damaging to the United States of America.”

“Being president of the United States is serious business, not a reality TV show,” Perry wrote.

But if many Republicans were hesitant to take Trump to task over his remarks on immigration, Trump’s comments about McCain opened the floodgates: Of the Republican candidates for president, only Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee did not react negatively.

Even the Republican National Committee weighed in, with the RNC’s chief strategist Sean Spicer saying, “There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.”

The Republican Party overall has been quieter regarding Trump’s remarks on immigration, but the subtext has been one of angst. The RNC in particular has worked since 2012 to broaden the Republican Party’s appeal with Hispanic voters, who overwhelmingly supported President Obama for re-election — work that Republicans fear will be undone by Trump. 

But there remains a powerful contingent in the party that takes a nativist view on immigration, and many of those voters appear to be drawn to Trump. In the ABC News poll, he won support from 38 percent of Republicans who think immigrants “weaken” the country.

To challenge Trump, then, might be a pronounced political risk for Republicans hoping to win the party’s nomination. Perry’s campaign knows it. But Perry and other Republicans are also weighing the risk to the Republican Party, and the consequences in a general election, if Trump’s remarks go unanswered. 

“In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders: repairers of the breach, and sowers of discord,” Perry will say Wednesday. “The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises.”

Rebecca Berg is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at rberg@realclearpolitics.com.

 

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