Perry Campaign Readies for Backlash Over Ranch Sign

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The governor could have a tough week, after a Washington Post story stirred controversy over a racially charged name for his hunting grounds

Perry in FL - Chris Carlson AP - banner.jpg

The next week could be a political slog for Republican presidential hopeful Texas Gov. Rick Perry, as his campaign is forced to play defense in the aftermath of blunt criticism from fellow GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain over a racially slurred sign on land leased by Perry's family.

By noon on Sunday, the Perry campaign had tried to contain the potential fallout. "Rick Perry has a long and strong record of inclusiveness and appointing African Americans to key state posts," Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan said in a statement.

It was the second e-mail blast from the Perry camp in a matter of hours, following the publication of a Washington Post story that said Perry's family did not remove a racially charged name from the West Texas ranch they used for hunting until long after Perry's political career became linked to the land.

The ranch, which was not owned by the Perry family, had a stone at its entrance prominently marked "Niggerhead," a name the Post said had been associated with the site long before the family first leased the 1,000-acre parcel in the early 1980s. Perry had invited fellow lawmakers and supporters to the secluded location early in his political career, the Post reported.

Perry's office said in a statement that "[a] number of claims made in the story are incorrect, inconsistent, and anonymous, including the implication that Rick Perry brought groups to the lease when the word on the rock was still visible." Perry's campaign said the name on the stone was painted over many years ago and that Perry had not been on the property since 2006.

Republican presidential hopeful and pizza executive Herman Cain took the opportunity on the Sunday morning talk show circuit to blast Perry for the allegations. Cain lashed out at the "insensitive" nature of the name and questioned how long it had been visible. "Since Governor Perry has been going there for years to hunt, I think that it shows a lack of sensitivity for a long time of not taking that word off that rock and renaming the place," Cain said on ABC News' "This Week."

So far, the other Republican candidates have been mum on the issue, but the pile-on for Perry may not end there. On Saturday night at a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H., Perry said he would send U.S. troops into Mexico to stop the drug wars there, according to The Dallas Morning News.

"It may require our military, in Mexico, working in concert with them, to kill these drug cartels and to keep them off our border and to destroy their networks. It is very important for us to work with them to keep that country from failing," Perry said, according to the newspaper.

Image credit: Chris Carlson/AP

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Nancy Cook & David Kent

Nancy Cook is the budget and tax correspondent for National Journal. David Kent is a copy editor at National Journal.

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