Ask the Perry camp about the Social Security “Ponzi scheme” issue and you’ll get a confident response. Although Perry has quietly backed away from his most incendiary words on Social Security — in the last debate, he said “Ponzi scheme” only to observe that others had also used the phrase — Team Perry feels confident he has the upper hand on Mitt Romney.
Perry’s aides know that most Republicans, even if they think “Ponzi scheme” is over the top, agree with Perry (along with Romney and other GOP candidates) that Social Security needs serious reform. But they also know that how you say it matters, and Romney seems to come at Perry from a Democratic perspective, which is not exactly an advantage in a GOP debate. “Romney ends up sounding like Harry Reid or the DNC when he makes those attacks,” says the Perry source.
As for the other issue that dominated the last debate, Perry’s camp thinks the HPV vaccine controversy is mostly over. “From our standpoint, it has been thoroughly vetted and exhausted and is not a timely issue,” says the source. Other candidates might disagree, but it is true that the vaccine issue a) has been discussed at length, b) is probably no longer an advantage for Michele Bachmann after her wild speculation about HPV, and c) has been neutralized by Perry’s clear statement that he regrets handling the matter the way he did.