RICK Perry, the new front-runner in the Republican race for United States president, has fallen victim to the first attack ad of the campaign season, courtesy of Michele Bachmann's followers.
Supporters of Ms Bachmann, who is third in the polls, criticised the Texas governor's record on spending in a television spot due to air in the crucial battleground of South Carolina.
"Rick Perry says he's one tough hombre on spending," the narrator intones. "But what's his record? Rick Perry doubled spending in a decade. . . and he's supposed to be the Tea Party guy?"
The advertisement finishes with an image of Ms Bachmann and the line: "There is an honest conservative, and she's not Rick Perry."
At the same time, two minor candidates also made jibes about Mr Perry.
Jon Huntsman, former Utah governor and US ambassador to China, referred in New Hampshire to the heavy security surrounding Mr Perry, saying: "I might not have the Texas Rangers here. I might not have a large entourage."
Meanwhile, when asked about Mr Perry on a talk- radio show, Herman Cain, a pizza entrepreneur, said: "He's a career politician. Just one more politician for me to beat."
All three lines of attack have been themes stressed privately by aides to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor -- and the longtime front-runner, before Mr Perry entered the race.
Thus far, he has been relatively restrained in his criticism of his rival.
On Monday, however, he gave a speech in Texas in which he clearly had Mr Perry, who has held office in the state since 1985, in mind.
"I am a conservative businessman," Mr Romney said. "I spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy.
"Career politicians got us into this mess and they simply don't know how to get us out." (© Daily Telegraph, London)