Allahpundit nicely plays out what could happen if Romney goes after Perry on entitlements. It seems to me that Perry’s best counter would be to get specific. Perry has already said that he wants to encourage a national conversation on entitlements. He’s also laid out some specific proposals, like raising the retirement age or means testing–but merely as options to be debated.
That is not going to do the trick. Perry’s book, Fed Up! is serious and thoughtful, but its rhetoric on entitlements is an invitation to opposition assault. The only way Perry can prevent opponents from turning him into the Grinch is to come up with a fairly specific plan that shows he does not want to kill entitlements, but does hope to reform them. If Perry suggests a higher Social Security retirement age, beginning ten years out, and formally endorses Paul Ryan’s plan, it would be very difficult for Romney to “Mediscare” Perry. (Avik Roy makes a similar point.)
Those who wanted the Republican race to force a national debate on entitlements may soon get their way. Ryan could join the battle by proxy of Perry. So long as Perry is in the race, Fed Up! means that entitlements are likely to be a central issue.