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updated 9/3/2011 3:35:25 PM ET 2011-09-03T19:35:25

Maybe Rick Perry's not so "Fed Up!" after all.

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Just nine months ago, the Texas governor released a rhetorical bomb-throwing book under that title. He dismissed Social Security as a New Deal relic that smacked of socialism. He said states' rights trump all else. He suggested that the Supreme Court's nine unelected "oligarchs in robes" could have their rulings overturned by two-thirds votes in both houses of Congress.

Now that the Republican is running for president, his campaign has begun distancing itself from some of the candidate's own words on issues such as Social Security and states' rights.

Pulling back won't be easy because "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington" is anything but the nuanced list of general positions that fills the pages of most presidential candidates' books.

Politicians "typically don't take strong positions. They are largely biographical and usually not specific at all," said Adam Bellow, editorial director of Broadside Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, who edited Sarah Palin's two books. "It is unusual," Bellow said of "Fed Up!," "but we are in an unusual moment."

Perry, who's shot to the top of many public opinion polls among the GOP contenders, hasn't shied away from bashing Social Security. Last month in Iowa, he said the program "is a Ponzi scheme for these young people." Later, he told reporters, "I haven't backed off anything in my book. So read the book again and get it right."

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Campaign spokesman Mark Miner said "no one can argue that Social Security isn't broken."

"The goal was to put these issues on the table and ensure they're addressed," Miner said.

But, in his book, Perry goes well beyond criticizing the program's financing problems and vilifies the entire concept as a failed social experiment.

"Like a bad disease," he wrote, New Deal-era initiatives have spread. "By far the best example of this is Social Security." The program "is something we have been forced to accept for more than 70 years now."

Already, Perry communications director Ray Sullivan was reported as saying that the book is not meant to reflect Perry's current views on Social Security — even though "Fed Up" was published just last year.

While skewering the program might help Perry with tea party supporters, it could cost him with elderly voters in Florida and other important states were he to win the nomination, said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell.

"He definitely needs to cut back on the volatile rhetoric and couch his words more carefully or they can come back to haunt him," O'Connell said.

Polling by the Pew Research Center in June found that 87 percent of Americans see Social Security as good for the country. "The views of the public are, it's overwhelmingly positive," said Carroll Doherty, Pew center's associate director.

Perry's GOP rivals are expected to use the book against him, emphasizing the idea that he might be too extreme for independent voters.

"This year, Republicans believe that losing the election means losing the country," said Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist who has worked for Perry opponents but is now unaligned.

"Any candidate who displays general election weakness, because his radical views scared seniors, independents, or soccer moms, would be disqualified in the GOP nomination process. A vote for such a candidate in a primary would be seen as a vote for Obama in the general."

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Already, Perry has pulled back from his unequivocal position on states' rights.

In "Fed Up!" he writes, "If you don't support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don't come to Texas. If you don't like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don't move to California." Elaborating in July about New York's decision to allow same-sex marriage, he said, "that's New York, and that's their business, and that's fine with me."

Perry has since clarified that he's against gay marriage anywhere, and last month signed a pledge that, if elected, he would back a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between and a woman, which would preclude a state's choice.

He devotes an entire chapter to lambasting the Supreme Court, anticipating that the justices one day issue a ruling forcing nationwide gay marriage on the country. As a check on judicial power, he proposes allowing Congress to override the high court with a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.

"While ideas like that may sound very cogent to Perry, he may have a real problem explaining them," O'Connell said.

The governor has long known his book could be problematic in a national campaign. As the polls closed on election day 2010, giving Perry his third full term as governor, he told The Associated Press that "Fed Up!" proved he was too conservative to seek the White House.

"I think probably the best display, the best concrete evidence that I'm really not running for president is this book," Perry said, "because when you read this book, you're going to see me talking about issues that for someone running for public office, it's kind of been the third rail if you will."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Perry’s fundraising push

  1. Closed captioning of: Perry’s fundraising push

    >>> welsh another day, another dollar for governor rick perry . today back in his home state of texas for a fund-raiser after hosting half a dozen already this week. nbc news campaign embed joins me now in washington because they're not letting you into these fund-raisers, are they.

    >> great to see you.

    >> we should note when the president has fund-raisers there's always a print pooler at some point showing up there. i'll be curious to see if perry and romney start doing it the same way. let me ask you about rick perry and fund-raising. he's been on the trail a lot and trying to fund raise a lot. how much have you noticed the sort of wear and tear on candidate perry ?

    >> after today he will have done eight fund-raisers since monday. he got in fairly late and they don't want to be in a situation where they're running out of money during a south carolina bus tour. this is really important to have all their ducks in a row. he's really good at raising money in texas . again, the rules in texas when he was running for governor, there aren't campaign limbs, so here he has to delve into those folks and expand his national network .

    >> i've already seen they seem to be raising the bar a little bit about how well they're going to do at fund-raising and it's coming in at september 30th that, you know, some sort of -- way over $20 million to perhaps $30 million in this first quarter that they would be raising money, that they think they would be like bush '99.

    >> and they're going up against mitt romney , who as we know --

    >> are they this confident in being able to raise dollar for dollar with perry ? romney.

    >> he's working really hard and taps into his existing networks in texas , will do a little in new york later in the month. this is huge. they don't want to have sloppy fund-raising numbers.

    >> you have the advantage of doing this for a second cycle for us. it's a brand-new campaign in the perry campaign. when you see these events, do you feel as if they have a full-fledged campaign infrastructure on the ground, doing the things that you were used to seeing four years ago when you were covering some of these campaigns when they were more mature?

    >> his team has a lot of folks who have been with perry for five or ten years, all his communications staff or people who have represented him in the past. a lot of these people have worked with bush in previous cycles, as well. you are getting not necessarily the cap ber of presidential events but you're getting a setup as far as advance and big crowds, too. i mean, they have overflow rooms when he was in south carolina where there were four times as many people in the overflow room that he addressed briefly as opposed to people in the room with him when he was doing a south carolina diner visit.

    >> you feel like you're no longer covering a new campaign still trying to figure out where the press is going to be. a little more operational.

    >> it's nuclear because it's folks who have been around the governor for a long time. they're still i think getting used to the national press attention. sometimes the questions that are getting asked at the press conferences, they're saying oh, that wouldn't have come from texas or oklahoma press. but he's responding in a way that, you know, that first day when he was in iowa, he took e questions from everybody. everyone who threw a question at him rick perry wanted to engage. now if you're close to him and ask him a question and it's not a designated time, he'll smile at you and move right on.

    >> carrie dann . thank you.

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