Rick Perry is taking a lot of heat over the big prayer rally he's hosting in Houston today, due to the controversial nature of several scheduled speakers and questions about whether the event crosses the separation of church and state line.
But Dallas Morning News Senior Political Correspondent Wayne Slater says the Texas governor, widely viewed as a likely Republican presidential candidate, actually has his eye on evangelical voters in other states, and on one already-announced candidate in particular - Iowa Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Slater told CBS News Congressional Correspondent and fill-in "Early Show on Saturday Morning" co-anchor Nancy Cordes there are two ways to look at the flack Perry's getting over the rally.
"It's his event," Slater said. "He's conceived of it. He's convening it. The people associated with it, in one way or other, many have exotic religious views, so it's perfectly fair to attribute some of this to Rick Perry.
"On the other hand, he said, rightly, he doesn't share the same religious views of everybody associated with this, and that everybody can agree, he says, on the commitment of prayer -- at least almost everybody."
Some Republican strategists, Cordes pointed out, say Perry should draw attention more to his economic credentials than his social ones since, they says, he already has the vote of evangelical Christians in the bag.
"He doesn't necessarily have it locked up," Slater replied. "It's a constituency he needs. The white conservative Protestant evangelical born-again Christians in Iowa and South Carolina represent, in those caucus and primary states, 60 [ercent of the early vote, so he wants to focus on these, so he gets these votes from someone popular in the party, Michele Bachmann.
"What he's really doing is sending a dog-whistle, saying, 'I'm one of you,' to these Christian conservatives, who will be crucial.
"Then, he believes, he can focus on the economic issues, and that's what this race is going to be about, ultimately -- the economy. He'll talk about that in the primary. But If he becomes the nominee, that's exactly what he'll focus on in the general (election)."
On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," CBS News Correspondent Karen Brown explained what all the controversy over the prayer rally was about: