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Perry's TARP problem?

With the national vetting of Texas Gov. Rick Perry now in full swing, a document already well known to observers of Perry's 2010 re-election race could raise more questions about the authenticity of Perry's fierce anti-Washington rhetoric.

During his 2010 gubernatorial primary, Perry opponent Kay Bailey Hutchison -- whom Team Perry dubbed "Kay Bailout" because of her support of Troubled Asset Relief Program -- pointed to a 2008 letter in which Perry and a Democratic counterpart urged Congress to pass an "economic recovery package."

"We strongly urge Congress to leave partisanship at the door and pass an economic recovery package," Perry wrote in his capacity as head of the Republican Governors Association on Oct. 1, 2008. (Cosigning the letter was now-Sen. Joe Manchin, who at the time served as the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.)

"We both believe that it’s time to stand together for our country," the letter continued. "There is a time for partisanship and there is a time for getting things done. No one likes the hand they've been dealt, and now is not the time to assign blame. It is time for Washington, D.C. to step up, be responsible and do what's in the best interest of American taxpayers and our economy."

The Senate passed its version of TARP on Oct. 1, 2008; it was passed by the House and enacted into law on Oct. 3.

Support of TARP is now considered a black mark to most conservatives, and Perry did not hold back in capitalizing on Hutchison's "yes" vote in 2009 and 2010.

In defense, Hutchison described the joint RGA-DGA letter as Perry's endorsement of the legislation that later became known as the "bailout."

Perry "wrote a letter to every senator saying vote for it because we’re going to have a financial meltdown," as Hutchison described it on a Dallas-Ft. Worth politics program in Nov. 2010.

Perry's campaign countered at the time -- as it does now -- that the letter was a response to political gamesmanship in Congress, and that Perry supported action to prevent a financial meltdown but did not specifically back the Bush-backed approach later derided as a Wall Street "bailout."

"The letter was urging action and in no way endorsed TARP," Perry spokesman Mark Miner told NBC News. "The governor has been very clear and vocal in his opposition to TARP."

Hutchison's charge never gained traction in the 2010 primary, and Perry ultimately trounced her in the March 2010 contest.
Still, the 2008 letter could serve as fodder to opponents hoping to paint Perry as a relatively new convert to vehement opposition to federal spending and intervention in state economic affairs.

On Monday, the Daily Caller reported that Perry praised Hillary Clinton's health-care efforts in a spring 1993 letter when requesting her inclusion of rural residents in the new national health-care plan. The Perry campaign responded that the details of the plan were unclear at the time the letter was written.