A history of personal enmity and tough politics could complicate the 2012 presidential race for Republicans
It's an intriguing and personal subplot in the Republican presidential contest: the feud between current front-runner Rick Perry and strategic mastermind Karl Rove. As the Texas governor has surged to the top of the GOP field, the tension between him and the man who helped bring him into the Republican Party more than 20 years ago has spilled into public view.
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The Perry-Rove square-off isn't merely a soap-opera distraction. The way Perry and his team handle it could have real implications for his candidacy as he seeks to cement his status as the favorite to win the party's nomination. Rove defines the GOP political establishment for many conservative activists, and he drew their ire last year when he offered unbridled criticism of Delaware Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell. Using him as a foil could cement Perry's standing among conservatives, like members of the tea party, who are distrustful of the party's establishment and are poised to play an important role in next year's primary.
People on both sides of the Perry-Rove dispute describe a complicated relationship that, although strained in the past by personal enmity and hard-nosed politics, could be headed for a détente as Perry's presidential campaign gains traction. That would benefit both men because their rift has potentially serious political implications, pitting a front-runner for the Republican nomination against the cofounder of an independent expenditure group that's expected to provide critical financial muscle for the 2012 campaign. Rove's role in American Crossroads, expected to raise more than $100 million in the campaign cycle, makes him an influential gateway to the donor community Perry must tap as he tries to expand his fundraising base.