Rick Perry has moved swiftly through the first phase of presidential media coverage: What does the candidate look like? (A badass Texan) That went pretty well for him. But now he's into the second phase: What does the candidate think about stuff? That phase isn't going as well. Turns out Perry's a little skeptical about evolution and Social Security, for starters. This is the Rick Roll.

Evolution Is "a Theory That's Out There"

As Perry was meeting voters in New Hampshire Thursday, a woman brought her son to meet the governor and play a little game of Telephone.

Mom: He's got a question for you.
Son: How old do you think the earth is?
Perry: How old do I think the earth is? You know what, I don't have any idea. I know it's pretty old so it goes back a long long way.  I'm not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how long...
Mom: [whisper]
Perry: ...how old the earth is. I hear your mom was asking about evolution. It's a theory that's out there, and it's got some gas in it. In Texas we teach both creationsim and evolution in our public schools
Mom: [louder] Ask him why he doesn't believe in science!
Perry: ... because I think you're smart enough to figure out which one is right.

Gawker's John Cook says this is interesting for two reasons. First, Texas doesn't teach creationism -- "While the Texas State Board of Education did rather famously mandate in 2009 that its science textbooks include information on "alternatives" to evolution, no textbooks containing those alternatives have actually been approved for use as of yet." Second, using the term "creationism" was a slip up, Cook says."Aware that Creationism is an avowedly theological and fundamentally unscientific precept, Christianist activists have concocted a pseudo-scientific-sounding 'theory' called 'Intelligent Design' as a sort of stalking horse to sneak their creation myth into the public education curriculum."

An Opening?

Jon Huntsman opened his campaign not with a bang but with a promise to remain civil. But being the "sane candidate" works best when you have an insane one to contrast yourself with. Perhaps Perry gave Huntsman his opening. In response to Perry's comment, Huntsman tweeted, "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

Grabbing the Third Rail

Rick Perry wrote his book Fed Up! back when he was running for reelection as governor of Texas. What were the odds that anyone would actually read it? But now that he's running for president, his writing is getting him into trouble. In the book, Perry calls Social Security "a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal" and a "Ponzi scheme." It'd be better to create a program that “will allow individuals to own and control their own retirement,” he writes. But he doesn't think that anymore. Maybe. The Wall Street Journal's Neil King Jr. reports that after protesters in New Hampshire accused him of saying Social Security is unconstitutional, Perry's communications director, Ray Sullivan, told King he'd "never heard" Perry say the program was unconstitutional. Further, Fed Up! "is a look back, not a path forward." It's not supposed to reflect what Perry currently thinks about policy, even though it was published less than a year ago.

Still, Politico's Maggie Haberman notes Perry used the Ponzi scheme line as recently as Saturday.
 
Searching for a Mistress
 
Salon's Justin Elliott reports that Robert Morrow, a Ron Paul supporter living in Austin, bought a full-page ad in the local alt-weekly that asks in big bold text: "Have you ever had sex with Rick Perry?"
 
 
 
Elliott talked to Morrow, who "claims that he knows strippers in Austin who have stories about Perry, but none of them are willing to come forward to the press; hence, the need for an ad..." Rumors have circulated for years that Perry has had affairs, but an Austin Chronicle investigation of them found no evidence to support the claims.
 
About that "Nonpolitical" Rally
 
Perry held an explicitly Christian prayer rally August 6, but insisted it was apolitical. The event was sponsored by the American Family Association, and, as Business Insider's Grace Wyler reports, the group is now pushing rally attendees to make "their voices heard in the voting booth!" The AFA doesn't explicitly endorse Perry, but "it is evidence of the latent politics behind" the event, Wyler writes. The rally "unified broad networks of conservative evangelicals that can now be launched on the national political stage. By initiating the rally, Perry has positioned himself as the de facto leader of this newly-energized Christian Right."