A thousand homes and 100,000 acres have burned in just a week. A friend of mine who lives just outside Austin was forced to flee with her family last night as the flames encroached, and not until this afternoon did she learn whether her home had survived. (It had.) Go figure that this guy thinks he should do his job rather than gladhand people on the trail for a few days.

Presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he does not yet know whether he will attend Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate…

“I don’t know. That’s a fluid situation at the moment. Again I go back to we’re going to be taking care of the folks here … We’re really focused on the events at hand and the other side of that is we’re pretty good at multitasking,” said Perry on CBS’s “The Early Show” Tuesday…

“This is not the time to be talking about politics. There’s another 14 months ahead to talk politics. Right now I’m substantially more focused on making sure that these people … folks all across this state are being taken care of. Getting out of harms way, saving lives is the big issue for me right now,” Perry told CBS.

Serious question: Is there a single person whining at him for missing DeMint’s forum who wouldn’t also be whining if he had attended the forum that he had shirked his duties as governor?

“It’s obvious that Rick Perry is skipping the DeMint forum because he knew he was going to be asked tough questions about his previous support for gay marriage in New York, as well as his policies in Texas in favor of illegal immigration,” says one representative of a rival camp. “He’s looking for a reason to not actually be compared to the other candidates,” says an official in another camp. “He was grasping for a reason not to show.”

There are eight more debates scheduled before the Iowa caucuses, three of which will be held within the next 15 days. Plenty of opportunities left to quiz him about immigration, an issue on which he is in fact very vulnerable, and on gay marriage and the Tenth Amendment, which won’t hurt him at all given his appeal to evangelical leaders. Ultimately he’s the only one who suffers from having to miss these things since every absence gives Romney and Bachmann a chance to shine unhindered and to attack him without fear of retort. They may have no choice tomorrow night: According to NBC’s new poll, Perry leads Romney by fully 15 points, 38/23, with Bachmann a distant fourth (behind Ron Paul) at eight percent.

Update: This isn’t a hard and fast “I’ll be there, hell or high water,” but his spokesman said this afternoon that he still plans to attend tomorrow night.