“‘It’s not who is the slickest candidate or the smoothest debater that we need to elect. We need to elect the candidate with the best record and the best vision for this country,’ said Perry.

“‘Remember President Clinton?’ he continued. ‘He could sell ice cubes to Eskimos and then the next day be against ice cubes.'”

***

“The first line of Rick Perry’s campaign obituary may have been drafted Thursday night: He got in too late…

“A more seasoned candidate would be better informed on national security policy, fluent to the point of knowing by heart his chief opponent’s core vulnerabilities, and would never offend his party’s base with such a pointed attack. And a more sure-footed one would have recognized that he couldn’t get away with the claim that he issued an executive order on HPV after being ‘lobbied’ by a cancer victim—because it has been publicly established that he met the victim only after he made the decision…

“What may hurt Perry the most, though, is if the ongoing series of debates create the impression that he simply doesn’t have the capacity to get up to speed. If, after the four additional forums scheduled between now and the Iowa caucuses, Perry shows no ability to give a cogent answer on a foreign policy question or discuss the country’s domestic challenges in a way that veers from his top-line talking points, Romney’s slow and steady approach will have the ex-Massachusetts governor positioned to take advantage.”

***

“The Republican presidential debate in Orlando was sponsored by Google, but it was Gov. Rick Perry who was searching. The frontrunner’s answers meandered. When fielding a hypothetical question about terrorists getting nukes in Pakistan, his response ribboned out like he was reading the first search results to come up. Even when he read his attack lines on rival Mitt Romney from the notes on his lectern, it was muddy. This was Perry’s third debate this campaign; with each successive one, his performance gets worse.

“The race between the Republican frontrunners has been between electability and authenticity. ‘Paint Creek’ Perry is one of you—he prays, he speaks plainly, he’s from a small town in Texas—and Moneybags Mitt ain’t. Romney’s pitch: He can beat President Obama, whereas Perry is too reckless. At the debate, Perry not only failed to make the case about Romney’s essential phoniness, he turned the weapon on himself (Perry-kiri?), creating several self-inflicted wounds to the heart of his authenticity pitch…

“The emotional connection Perry is trying to create is more powerful than the intellectual pitch Romney is making. That may allow Perry to weather his poor performance in this debate. Republican voters are still in the shopping stage. Perry can get back on track, but for now his debates are the un-Google: They raise more questions than they answer.”

***

“Reading the reactions of thoughtful commentators after the stage emptied, talking with conservative policy types and GOP political operatives later last evening and this morning, we know we’re not alone. Most won’t express publicly just how horrified—or at least how demoralized—they are. After all, they still want to beat Obama—as do we. And they want to get along with the possible nominee and the other candidates and their supporters. They don’t want to rock the boat too much. But maybe the GOP presidential boat needs rocking…

“Now there are some legitimate excuses. With nine candidates on the stage, and answers restricted to one minute, it’s hard to really show your stuff. And two of the candidates—Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney—did provide respectable performances. But no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him. And Mitt Romney remains, when all is said and done, a technocratic management consultant whose one term as governor produced Romneycare. He could rise to the occasion as president. Or not.”

***

“At Thursday’s debate, it was hard to watch Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s performance and not recall Sarah Palin

“Perry is now going to have to grapple with the very Palin-esque idea that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about on issues of foreign policy. And in fact, the issue had already been raised quite a bit even before Thursday’s debate.

“Developing foreign policy chops as a governor takes time, and it’s pretty apparent that Perry had not banked on being a presidential candidate until very recently. As such, he’s operating at a deficit and will have a hard time making up for lost time. (Some are already asking whether he simply got into the race too late.)”

***

“Al Cardenas, a former Florida GOP chair and chairman of the American Conservative Union, predicts that despite his campaign’s efforts, Perry might have just lost his chance at a straw poll win in the past few days.

“‘If you ask me, I would have said three days ago that Perry’s going to be a runaway winner in this forum. I’m not so sure anymore,’ Cardenas says. ‘Rick Perry’s probably going to lose a few. He may still have the most, but it’s not as clear cut as I thought a week ago.'”

***

“The governor’s camp believes that his forceful, unapologetic style represents one of Perry’s greatest assets against his principal rival for the GOP nomination, Mitt Romney. ‘Perry is a very straight shooter,’ says Ray Sullivan, the campaign’s communications director. ‘Romney speaks and acts like someone who is afraid of taking a strong position and offending anyone … and voters on our side of the aisle are looking for stronger, bolder candidates.’

“The flip side is that Perry has never needed to systematically persuade voters who aren’t inclined to agree with him, nor has he had to defend his agenda against formidable opposition. It’s not just that Democrats have lacked any effective platform to challenge him since 2002; liberal groups in the state are weak, and the once-vibrant capital press corps has withered under cutbacks. ‘He’s never had to face a cohesive, well-funded, talented opposition,’ said Democratic consultant Jason Stanford. ‘He’s occasionally faced some of those things, but never all at once.'”

***

“Rick Perry stands on the precipice. He is about to fall off. If he wants to be the anti-Romney candidate, he needs to do a few things quickly. First, he needs to get a comprehensive economic plan out soon. Second, he needs to answer some tough questions on immigration. Third, he needs to talk about America more than Texas. Fourth, he needs to not lose the next two debates. He does not have to win. He just cannot lose.

“If Perry can hold his own in the debates he’ll be fine not winning the debates outright. But another performance like last night could push him off the edge of support among people who want an anti-Romney alternative, but who really want to beat Barack Obama even more.”

***

“‘Perry was off his game, big time,’ Santorum says. ‘Or maybe that is his game.'”

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Via the Daily Caller.

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