Rick Perry, Nelson Warfield, and the Gays

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 8 2011 2:02 PM

Rick Perry, Nelson Warfield, and the Gays

Sam Stein has a great scoop here, about internal dissession inside Team Rick Perry over a roundly-mocked new campaign ad. You've probably seen the ad by now -- Perry bemoans a state of affairs when "gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in schools." The word "gays" exits his mouth like a slushy wad of tobacco.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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The background:

When the ad was being crafted several weeks ago, Perry's top pollster, Tony Fabrizio, called it "nuts," according to an email sent from Fabrizio to the ad's main creator, longtime GOP operative Nelson Warfield. In a separate email to The Huffington Post, Warfield confirmed that the ad was made over Fabrizio's objections.
"Tony was against it from the get-go," Warfield wrote. "It was the source of some extended conversation in the campaign. To be very clear: That spot was mine from writing the poll question to test[ing] it to drafting the script to overseeing production."

Who is Nelson Warfield? He's one of the operators brought on by the struggling Perry operation in October, and he does indeed have his finger on the pluse of Republicans worried about gays. In 2007, Newsmax quoted him talking down a Rudy Giuliani candidacy.

"When was the last time Republicans nominated a pro-abortion, pro-gay rights Northeasterner with an iffy record on taxes and spending?" asked Nelson Warfield, an aide to Bob Dole's failed 1996 Republican presidential campaign. "That's the hurdle both Giuliani and Pataki face."

Before this, in 1995, Warfield was Bob Dole's presidential campaign spokesman. He played a big role in an early fight that burnished Dole's rep among social conservatives -- a very public return of donations from the Log Cabin Republicans.

Asked about the letter, and other conversations between Log Cabin and the campaign, Mr. Warfield said, "That communication was not authorized." He said Mr. Moran had since been told by Scott Reed, the campaign manager, to "exercise more caution" in his fund-raising appeals. And Mr. Warfield suggested that Log Cabin made the contribution for publicity, saying, "They're struggling for credibility."
Mr. Warfield said that the campaign had returned donations that violated campaign finance laws, but that the Log Cabin contribution was the first one returned for ideological reasons.

Stein's sources say that the ad reflected what Perry really wanted to say, and I'm sure it does, but it couldn't have hurt that a key aide has played this card before. (It's also interesting that HuffPost runs the story; as we learned on the record in Politico's campaign e-book, the site has done some legwork on a yet-unpublished story about gay rumors swirling around Perry himself.)

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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