Political group calls Perry 'coward' in new ad

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson talks to The Associated Press about a new ad by Democrat Bill White supporters attacking Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Texas — An independent group that is quickly becoming an attack dog for Democrat Bill White has released its harshest ad yet in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign: A full-page newspaper ad boldly calling Texas Gov. Rick Perry a "COWARD."

From El Paso to Texarkana, 24 Texas newspapers ran the ad in Tuesday's editions. Only the Houston Chronicle rejected the ad, which contains a photo of Perry on a black page emblazoned with the word "coward" in white capital letters. The ad claims he is hiding from his record by refusing to debate or meet with editorial boards.

The ad concludes with the statement: "Tell Rick Perry to stop cowering and face Texans like a man."

Perry has said for months that he won't debate White until the former Houston mayor releases his income tax returns from the years he was deputy U.S. energy secretary in the 1990s. White has released tax returns going back to 2004, when he became mayor.

White has pressed Perry to debate. Perry avoided editorial boards during his primary campaign but debated his primary opponent, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. The governor said he wouldn't visit editorial boards in the general election campaigns.

Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, said Perry doesn't think he has to debate White because the polls show him ahead and the election is expected to go well for Republicans. He compared Perry to a sleeping bear.

"White surrogates have a sharp stick and they're poking the bear, trying to get it up on its hind legs ... and the bear is just ignoring him," Jillson said. "They're trying to get him aggravated so he feels like he's got to come out, but the bear is just ignoring him.

"He's going to continue ignoring him unless the polls close, and bears very seldom read polls."

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