When I saw Perry’s topline number of three percent, I figured the “Ponzi scheme” talk must have sent Florida’s seniors running screaming into the night. Not so. He’s actually doing (marginally) worse with other age demographics in this poll, and in the last poll he did reasonably well with the 65+ crowd, finishing second to Romney in that group with almost 23 percent. That poll was taken on September 13, which was almost a week after Romney started attacking him on Social Security, so if entitlement chatter is what’s driving this, you would have expected to see some of that show up in last month’s data. What’s killing him here, I assume, is the same thing that’s killing him everywhere — his crack about the base’s “heartlessness” on immigration plus general disappointment that the anointed Romney-killer in the race has ended up making Romney look better and better with his debate performances thus far.
Explain to me how Perry rehabilitates himself to the point where he’s competitive again in Florida. Right now, he’s polling single digits in Iowa, far behind Cain and Romney (and slightly behind Bachmann). Cain might fade but he’s enough of a star at this point to split a decent chunk of Iowa conservatives from Perry, and Bachmann’s enough of a hometown favorite to do the same. If Perry disappoints there, he’ll assuredly be crushed in New Hampshire, where his polling lately is nearly as dismal as it is in Florida. Which leaves South Carolina, where he’s in double digits — but still far behind Romney and Cain. Maybe conservatives there will line up behind him in desperation, in the belief that he’s the only candidate on the right with enough money at that point to take Romney down. But Cain will be able to hurt Perry there too, especially if he surprises in Iowa, and Romney will be competing hard to try to build on his win in New Hampshire and carry momentum into Florida. And if Perry does end up getting crushed in Florida, even if he somehow manages a win in South Carolina, it’ll be a signal to undecideds that he can’t win the swing states that the GOP needs to oust Obama. Exit question: What’s his next move?