Perry Faces Tougher Tests on the National Stage
Last week wasn’t the best for Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign: He had a bad debate and lost two straw polls. Now the campaign will have to address those disappointments with an eye towards additional pitfalls down the campaign trail.
“Perry really did throw up all over himself in the debate,” Fox News’ Brit Hume said after last Thursday’s contest in Orlando, Fla. “At a time when he needed to raise his game — I mean, he did worse, it seems to me, than he had done in previous debates.”
The next GOP debate is Oct. 11 in New Hampshire. If Perry attends, don’t expect a dramatic improvement, says Paul Burka, senior executive editor at Texas Monthly.
“Perry’s has never been a really outstanding debater,” Burka told KUT News. “He’s never really had to face a tough debate in a race that he could lose.”
Perry has debated only five times since 2002, and he didn’t debate Bill White, his Democratic opponent in the 2010 governor’s race, at all.
“So I just wonder if his competitive edge in the debate situation is just dulled by the fact that he never really had to face the media here,” Burka said. “He didn’t go to editorial boards. He didn’t debate. So I just think you pay a price for that.”
Perry’s poor debate performance dulled his appeal. Some Republicans have begun saying it’s time for a more dazzling conservative candidate to enter the race, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. But that not likely, says Reid Wilson, editor of National Journal’s Hotline On Call blog.
“This is probably the field that’s going to compete in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary,” Wilson told KUT News. A new candidate “might generate a little buzz. But Rick Perry generated a lot of buzz, and here he is. People are already looking for somebody new.”
But several major network debates still remain. And while Perry’s campaign team is no doubt coaching him hard to overcome areas where he’s prone to stumble, such as how to go on the offensive, and deflect criticism, Burka says there is a silver lining: Eventually the debates will end and retail politics will take center stage.
“I think Perry will have an advantage in that format because he is better at the meet-and-greet and connecting with people than Mitt Romney is,” Burka said.
And according to a new CNN poll, Perry is still leading the GOP field.
He’s also still raising money. Fundraising totals come out in October. As of June 30, Mitt Romney had raised almost as much money than the rest of the Republican field combined.
Wilson says that’s not going to happen this time.
“Rick Perry is going to come out and probably show somewhere north of $10 million raised in just his first six weeks,” he said. “That’s a fantastic start to this campaign.”
But if Perry’s fundraising falls short of that, the doubts and criticism may gain strength. And Perry may have to begin campaigning from behind for one of the few times in his political career.