Ron Paul Goes After Rick Perry

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In a new ad released on Tuesday, Ron Paul hammers fellow Texan and Republican presidential rival Rick Perry, calling Perry’s conservative credentials into doubt by juxtaposing the candidates’ past political allegiances.

The ad, a six-figure buy running in Iowa and New Hampshire, cites Paul’s early support of Ronald Reagan’s presidential candidacy (“they called him ‘extreme’ and ‘unelectable,’ it says of Reagan, a reminder designed to assuage doubts about Paul’s electoral viability) and casts the 12-term GOP congressman as Reagan’s ideological heir. By contrast, it assails Perry, who like many Texas conservatives of his era began his career as a Democrat, for serving as a state chairman for Al Gore’s 1988 presidential campaign. “America must decide who [sic] to trust: Al Gore’s Texas cheerleader, or the one who stood with Reagan,” the narrator intones. (The reference to Paul reprises the designation his campaign used in his previous ad, “The One.”)

Paul has repeatedly argued that his GOP rivals all represent an extension of the status quo. His decision to zero in on Perry comes amid the Texas governor’s rise to the top of the primary pack. “All of the candidates have seemingly made an effort to co-opt Dr. Paul’s rhetoric, yet no one can match his consistently conservative record,” Paul spokesman Gary Howard wrote in an e-mail to TIME. “That includes Gov. Perry–as evidenced by his one-time support for someone like Al Gore for President.” Perry, who switched parties in 1989, has long since distanced himself from Gore, but will have to neutralize this line of criticism as the primary unfolds.

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