Ron Paul Takes On ‘Candidate of the Week’ Rick Perry

Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and the other Republican candidates have started attacking one another. Will the GOP cannibalize itself?

Ron Paul Takes On 'Candidate of the Week' Rick Perry

Presidential candidate Ron Paul launched a direct, pointed attack on frontrunner Rick Perry during an interview Friday.

“[He’s] a candidate of the week,” said Paul of fellow Texan Perry.

Paul also took aim at some of Perry’s more outlandish comments over the years, like his suggestion that Texas could at some point secede from the union, and warned voters who are getting swept up in Perry mania to take a closer look at the candidate’s record.

“The only thing I would advise is looking into him, looking at his record, and not just taking him at face value. Texas has had a lot of changes in these last eight years, not exactly positive either,” said Paul.

Paul is just one of the candidates who have been taking on Perry, a candidate whose nascent campaign has already surged to the head of the pack. Mitt Romney, for example, has been deriding his opponents as a “career politicians,” and an organization backing Michele Bachmann last week released an ad questioning Perry’s status as a Tea Party Republican.

But don’t feel too bad for Perry: He’s getting shots in, too. The Texas governor has explicitly called out “Romneycare,” the healthcare plan Romney signed while he was governor of Massachusetts, a plan that provided a blueprint for President Obama’s contentious healthcare reform.

“I think Mitt is finally recognizing that the Massachusetts healthcare plan he passed is a huge problem for him,” said Perry.

The personal and political attacks between Republican candidates shows a marked shift in strategy for the GOP’s White House hopefuls. As the ‘New York Times’ reports, the contenders realize they have to move beyond Obama attacks and start tearing one another down.

“The Republican field is entering a pivotal stage in the nominating contest as candidates increasingly move beyond criticizing President Obama and start to run against one another,” writes Jeff Zeleny.

This is obviously very good news for President Obama, taking some of the heat off of him, and turning it back to the GOP. But these tactics may backfire, leading into an ideological splinter for the Republican Party.

It’s no secret that Tea Party adherents and GOP establishment are fighting for the soul of the Republican Party. And, as I’ve noted before, the 2012 election will make or break the Tea Party, a populist movement that rose from the ashes of the GOP’s 2008 loss.

If the candidates continue to hammer one another, they could further exacerbate existing tensions, creating the same type of acrimonious division that nearly tore the Democratic Party apart as voters debated Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s candidacies during the last election.

There was a moment when it looked as if the Democrats would be unable to coalesce support around their eventual nominee, a scenario that would have guaranteed a win for John McCain and Sarah Palin.

If the GOP presidential candidates strike too hard at one another, if their supporters become immovable in their alliances, the party could find itself cannibalizing itself ahead of the nomination, thereby splintering their base and greatly reducing their odds of winning the White House.