WASHINGTON -- A multimillion-dollar super PAC backing the candidacy of Texas Gov. Rick Perry has launched its first salvo in the Republican primary ad wars with two spots that seek to re-brand the struggling candidate.
Ads by the super PAC, Make Us Great Again, will begin airing in South Carolina on Tuesday and Iowa on Wednesday. The blitz comes as Perry seeks to right his campaign ship after falling from atop the field following a number of debate appearances that saw his positions on everything from parental rights and Social Security to immigration come under fire.
Make Us Great Again is viewed as one of the premier candidate-centric super PACs. Super PACs, an invention that followed the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, are independent political committees that can accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals. The first super PACs largely resembled party committees by favoring the election of a host of candidates. But the Republican presidential primary has given birth to the candidate-centric super PAC, which has now also caught on with the Democrats.
Many candidate-centric super PACs are led by close associates of the candidate they support, and Make Us Great Again is no exception. Mike Toomey, the group's head, is Perry's former chief of staff, a longtime friend and is known as one of the most powerful lobbyists in Austin. The group has plans to raise up to $55 million to help secure the Republican nomination for Perry. The fundraising for the group is being led by Dallas millionaire Brint Ryan, whose accounting firm's employees are the biggest donors to Perry's campaign committee. Super PACs are ostensibly independent from the actual candidate campaign and cannot plan advertising or strategy with the campaign.
So far, the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, the only super PAC with a fundraising pool as large as Make Us Great Again, has stayed on the sidelines. The entry of Make Us Great Again in Iowa and South Carolina could change that.
Unexpectedly, the Make Us Great Again ads are both positive, promotional clips touting the governor's jobs record and humble origins. Outside groups are commonly viewed as vehicles to perform the dirty work of negative advertising without leaving fingerprints behind. Practically all of the super PACs that have aired ads or ran web ads so far, including those backing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and President Barack Obama, have issued negative advertisements.
The Make Us Great Again ads -- named "Leadership" and "Conservative" -- seek to reboot the Perry campaign, pushing Perry's record as a conservative governor of the state with highest job growth in the nation during the recession.
Perry's military service and his wife's work as a nurse are features of both ads. Achievements touted include balancing the budget, passing lawsuit reform and cutting regulations and spending. These are policy themes that were a part of Perry's campaign launch, but have since been pushed to the sidelines as poor debate performances and the mountain of other, more questionable policies and policy positions come to define the Perry campaign.
The Super PAC plans to spend about $400,000 on the ad buy; it comes as the Perry campaign plans its own $200,000 ad buy in Iowa.Watch "Leadership":
His dad was a tenant farmer. His wife a nurse. Rick Perry served in the Air Force, then came home to farm cotton. A solid conservative Perry's balanced every budget, passed major lawsuit reform, cut $15 billion in spending. The result, 1 million new jobs. Rick Perry. Conservative leadership that works.
His dad was a tenant farmer. His wife a nurse. Rick Perry served in the Air Force, then came home to farm cotton. A solid conservative Perry made his state the leader in manufacturing exports, passed major lawsuit reform, cut burdensome regulations. The result, 1 million new jobs. Rick Perry. Conservative leadership that works.