>>> good evening. it's the summer of 2011, but right about now, it sures seem the summer of 2012. we don't vote for president again for a good long while and yet all the candidates are out on the road. the president, the entire gop field, and right about now, the rest of the country is learning what texans already know about their governor, what he says, what he does, how he does business and it's givant rest of us something to talk about and watch closely right here in the middle of august. and as proof that the campaign is already on, today's debate had to do with money, name calling and whether or not the president of the united states loves his country. we begin here tonight with nbc's andrea mitchell.

>> reporter:  campaigning today in iowa at the world's largest truck stop, rick perry was not backing down about the storm he created by taking aim at fed chairman, ben bernanke.

>> this guy prints more money between now and the election, i don't know what y'all would do to him in iowa, but we'd -- we would treat him pretty ugly down in texas. i mean, printing more money to play politics at this particular time in american history is almost treacherous -- or treesonness in my opinion.

>> reporter:  perry's comments also crossed the line for some republicans. fellow texan karl rove say it had is not presidential.

>> it was a very unfortunate comment. you don't accuse the chairman of the federal reserve of being a traitor to his country, of being guilty of treeson. and suggesting that we treat him pretty ugly in texas.

>> reporter:  in a rough and tumble few days, perry, a former air force pilot, has also repeatedly questioned president obama's patriotism.

>> the president had the opportunity to serve his country, i'm sure at some time, and he made a decision that that wasn't what he wanted to do.

>> reporter:  is he saying the president doesn't love america?

>> you need to ask him.

>> reporter:  late today, the president responded to wolf blitzer on cnn.

>> be a little more careful about what you say. but i will cult him some slack. he has only been at it for a few days now.

>> reporter:  perry's texas swagger is his calling card, bred of a hardscrabble boy hood on the family farm and aggie root at texas a&m. perry's chief claim to challenging president obama is the texas jobs record. perry says his state produced 43% of all the jobs created across america in the last two years. with an unemploy rate at 8.2%, well below the national average, partly because of the oil and gas boom, partly because of growing trade with mexico, and federal defense spending in texas. critics point out that texas has the highest percentage of residents with no health insurance and ties mississippi for the percent tam of low-wage jobs. still, those who know perry say don't underestimate him.

>> anybody who sells him short and thinks that he is a light weight is making a big mistake.

>> reporter:  perry had repeated opportunities all day today to back off his comment about the president and the fed chairman and he did not. clearly showing how he plans to separate himself from the other candidates, like fellow tea party-supported candidate michele bachmann and clearly, mitt romney. brian?

>> andrea mitchell starting us off in d.c. tonight. andrea, thanks.