Rove 'surprised' by Perry's criticism of him at Republican debate

Former George W. Bush and Rick Perry adviser Karl Rove said that it was an "odd moment" when his critique of the current Texas governor was mentioned in last night's presidential debate, and that he was "surprised" when Perry said that he had been "over the top for a long time."

"Governor Perry is responsible for what he writes and says — what's he upset about?" Rove said on Fox News.

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Rove had previously said that Perry's views on Social Security — likening the program as currently constituted to "a Ponzi scheme" — were "toxic in a general-election environment and they are also toxic in a Republican primary." Perry did not back away from the comments Wednesday night, again referring to the program as "a Ponzi scheme" and "a monstrous lie." Perry also said, "I'm not responsible for Karl anymore."

Rove shot back that he "didn't know I was under his personal care like that," and suggested that Perry needed to convey his plan — which involves giving control of Social Security to the states — more effectively to have a chance in the election.

"You have a responsibility to explain that to the American people — if you want to win — in a way that's reassuring," Rove said. "This is a problem that in my opinion he ought to address sooner rather than later."

Nevertheless, Rove softened his comments by emphasizing that his critique of Perry was aimed at "making Barack Obama a one-term president" and that if Perry were to become the Republican nominee, "I want him to win."

In general, Rove was less critical of the Texas governor than he has been in the weeks before the debate, when he openly questioned the quality of the GOP field as a whole.

"You understand why Republicans are feeling more comfortable with their options and you can also understand why President Obama is in trouble, because from every one of those people was a principled, thoughtful critique of Barack Obama's policies," Rove said.

Rove also counted Perry as among his "winners" Wednesday night, saying he delivered "a formidable performance."

"He's passionate, provocative, Texan to his core … over the course of a presidential campaign, it's like that old children's tale, 'The Emperor With No Clothes,' you get to see candidates exactly how they are," Rove said.

Rove also praised former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for his performance in the debate.

"Mitt Romney was steady, solid, had some good comebacks," Rove said.