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Former Bush spokeswoman: Rick Perry should "distance himself" from George W. Bush

Dana Perino
Former White House press secretary Dana Perino CBS

Dana Perino, who was White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush, said on Fox News Thursday that Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry should "distance himself" from her former boss.

"Rick Perry is smart to distance himself from George W. Bush if he wants to win the Republican nomination and, eventually, the presidency," Perino said.

Mr. Bush was the governor of Texas before Perry became governor, and longtime Bush aide Karl Rove nurtured Perry early in his career. But the relationship between the politicians soured, in part because Perry turned critical of his predecessor, saying in 2007, "George Bush was never a fiscal conservative." Perry would go on to criticize Mr. Bush for some of his signature policies, including the No Child Left Behind education bill, which Perry called "a monstrous intrusion into our affairs."

The two men share obvious stylistic similarities, but they come from very different backgrounds. For supporters of Perry, who grew up poor in rural Texas, the Texas twang adopted by Mr. Bush, a product of elite East Coast schools, rings false. Supporters of Mr. Bush, meanwhile, view Perry as an unsophisticated "hick," according to author R.G. Ratcliffe, who is writing a book on Perry. (It's worth noting that when asked recently what differentiated him from his predecessor in the governor's mansion, Perry pointed out that he went to Texas A&M, while Mr. Bush went to Yale.) 

Regardless of the nature of their relationship, Perry may have little choice but to draw distinctions with Mr. Bush, who earned the ire of many Tea Party supporters for his backing of the $700 billion bank bailout in 2008 and for increases in government spending throughout his time in office. In her comments Thursday, Perino said "anybody" seeking the nomination is going to distance him- or herself from the former president.

She added, however, that running "against" Mr. Bush - that is, making the election about the former president - "is a mistake."

"That worked in 2008 for McCain and Obama," she said. "It won't work in 2012."