Perry vs. Rove: How Their Feud Got Started

Perry is also a favorite of tea party activists across the country, a group that views Rove with suspicion. Rove is a "company man," said Tamara Colbert, co-founder of the conservative group TeaPAC, adding that she liked Perry's willingness to take him on.

"Speaking from the tea party perspective, we want somebody who is not beholden to having to do things the old way," she said.

For its part, Perry's team emphasizes that any feud with Rove is little more than media hype. Or, as Carney put it in an interview, it's an "unbelievably manufactured" story.

"My memory is completely different," he said. "I don't where this talk comes from."

Several who know Rove suggest he might also be trying to downplay the rivalry. Reggie Bashur, a Republican strategist in Texas, said Rove's criticism was offered only because he's a pundit, one who will criticize all of the candidates.

"I had breakfast with Karl six weeks ago, and he was anything but critical," said Bashur. "He overall supports the governor and wishes him well. He wants the Republicans to win."

A détente could serve Perry well. Even as the architect of the last White House, Rove is relatively unknown to the average voter. Engaging in a fight with an ex-White House staffer could make a presidential candidate look small, petty and distracted from what the real focus of any campaign should be: the economy.

"I think the danger for the Perry campaign is allowing that issue to become a sideshow. They don't need to use Karl Rove as a foil," said Keith Appell, a Republican strategist. He added, "The environment already lends itself to Perry's strengths. There's a bad economy, people are out of work. He's been a successful governor where new jobs have been created in abundance. That is so much bigger to people than some of these internal political side-shows."

Image credit: Chet Susslin/National Journal

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Alex Roarty is a politics writer for National Journal.

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