Rick Perry has two more days before the next Republican primary debate, but he’s already trying to shape the battleground with his new 60-second ad. Instead of focusing on himself, he’s still hitting Mitt Romney where he is most vulnerable, on health care and conservative distrust of Romney’s commitment to core principles. In “Romney’s Remedy,” the slick production shows Barack Obama looking in a mirror to see a reflection of Romney staring back at him, with Romney’s own debate zinger floating in between the two images:

The production values in this spot are much better than the dry Power Point-like presentation of the ads highlighting the differences between editions of Romney’s book, ads which got yawns (or worse). This focuses on a real concern of primary voters, and asks them if they will really pull the lever for a man who created one of the models for ObamaCare.  Romney can pledge to overturn it as often as he likes, but the question that the late Tim Russert asks him in a clip shown here still resonates — if RomneyCare was so good for Massachusetts, why wouldn’t Romney try something similar as President for the entire country?

The question will be whether this attack helps Perry as much as it hurts Romney.  Republicans are frustrated that other candidates haven’t spent more time attacking Romney on this issue, but that’s been in part because they’ve been too busy attacking Perry.  Unless Perry can win a couple of upcoming debates, this ad will end up being more vaguely helpful to whomever gains the anti-Romney vote — and that might not be Perry, unless he focuses making a case for why Perry should get the nomination instead of why Romney shouldn’t.

Speaking of debates, Team Perry thinks they have their problems resolved.  The answer was better debate prep, and … more sleep?

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas struggled through his first three debates, so his aides have staged practice sessions, complete with a stand-in for Mitt Romney. He has stirred outrage among conservatives on immigration, so he is defending his stance on the campaign trail as good economics.

And as he prepares for two more debates in the next nine days, along with his first major policy address, his advisers have devised another way to help: requiring Mr. Perry to get more sleep. …

Aides said there was a recognition that he must perform better in debates on Tuesday in New Hampshire and next week in Nevada if he hoped to retain his position as the leading Republican alternative to Mr. Romney.

“We had a tired puppy,” said one Republican friend, who talked to Mr. Perry after his three back-to-back debates last month. “He had been pushed really hard.”

Tired? Pushed hard? Well, kudos to them if they have solved the debate problem, but honestly, what did they expect? Perry jumped in late, and that makes it seem as though he and his team were unprepared for what that meant. If Perry gets back on track, then perhaps we can say this: