Will Perry “break the rules” to get his mojo back?

posted at 3:25 pm on October 18, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Tonight’s debate will once again provide a critical moment for two of the three top contenders in the Republican nomination.  This will be the first comprehensive policy debate for Herman Cain as a frontrunner, after performing impressively in the economics debate last week.  For Rick Perry, though, this may very well be his last opportunity to demonstrate enough skill in presentation and communication to get some of his initial supporters back on his bandwagon.  Byron York reports that the Texas governor’s team has a new strategy to get Perry more involved — and more eloquent:

 “We’re going to pay a little less attention to the rules,” says a source in the Perry camp who asked to go unnamed.  “One of the things the governor tried to do in New Hampshire [at the Bloomberg/Washington Post debate] was to live by the time limits set by organizers.  No one else did.  As a result, one could view the governor’s performance as having less to say, when in fact he was simply trying to live up to the rules of the debate.  They’ve rarely been enforced, and we’re not going to pay much attention to them.”

A number of observers remarked that Perry seemed to check out of the New Hampshire debate for long periods of time.  Whatever the explanation — whether he was trying to abide by the rules or simply wasn’t engaged in the conversation — it appears Perry will try to take a more active role in Las Vegas.

Was that really the problem?  The rules seemed to be generally followed except for Rick Santorum, and the result of the debate didn’t do much for his polling in the past week.  Perry didn’t get a lot of questions last time, but when he did, he didn’t take advantage of the allotted time anyway.  When pressed for his plan on economics — in a debate that had been announced as an economics-only forum — Perry averred, saying that he needed more time to produce a plan after having been in the race for two months.  He then offered a strange assertion that policy didn’t matter, but that what mattered was getting the economy back on track … which was the point of discussing the economic plans in the first place.

The economy will obviously be a key topic in tonight’s debate, and now Perry has rolled out his own plan, which gives him some specifics to present.  Whether or not he can recover his mojo will depend on how he presents them — and more importantly, how he defends them.  Most of Perry’s problems have come when other Republicans go on the attack, which seems to derail Perry’s efforts.  Nowhere has that been more true than on immigration, where Perry’s “heartless” accusation enraged the very base he had been trying to court.  Perhaps he can point to a recent Washington Post article which detailed the use of a “small army” that Perry has deployed on the border to engage the cartels.  The tone of the report is clearly not sympathetic to Perry, but he can at least use it to argue that he alone among the candidates has actually done something about illegal border crossings.

Perry needs a big, positive performance in tonight’s debate in order to change minds about his prospects and recover some of his standing in the party.  What about the rest of the field?  Let’s start with the other hot-seat candidate, Herman Cain.  Cain answered questions about his ability to handle attacks on stage, as well as his ability to command attention.  Now he needs to demonstrate that he’s been doing some homework on foreign affairs.  Earlier this year, Cain slipped on a rather routine question about the Palestinian demand for a right of return, exposing a potentially game-ending gap on foreign policy.  Cain claimed on Sunday to have been studying the writings of John Bolton and Henry Kissinger and to having informal conversations with Bolton as well.  If so, this is pop-quiz time, as Cain will surely get challenged by Rick Santorum on foreign policy, and perhaps — maybe — Mitt Romney as well.  If Cain can’t answer another basic foreign-policy question on the fly, he’s going to damage his momentum.  If he handles it well, his credibility will continue to rise, and Romney will have a big problem on his hands.

Romney’s task is still pretty simple: stick to what has worked all along.  Act like the frontrunner and don’t engage the second tier.  Romney has a significant amount of strength on foreign policy, but he may have more trouble if talk turns to environmental policy.  If candidates paid attention this week, they could hit Romney for his partnership with John Holdren and appointment of Douglas Foy, especially when it comes to regulatory adventurism.  Romeny’s going to be prepared for those questions, but getting them aired might be enough to damage his calm somewhat.  Still, Romney has all but secured his status as a front runner through these debates by projecting an image of cool confidence and competence, and as long as he manages to continue doing that, he’ll have a leading position when the primaries begin.

For the rest of the field, the mission will be to find a way to replace Herman Cain as the so-called “flavor of the month.”  Michele Bachmann has already blown momentum and probably can’t win it back, and Jon Huntsman keeps attempting to use tone-deaf jokes that fall utterly flat.  Santorum needs to find ways to respond and attack without sounding petulant and angry.  Ron Paul will impress his base, but no one else will be convinced, especially when his inevitable reaction to the Iranian plot will be that it’s really our fault.

Of all the other candidates on the stage, Newt Gingrich might be the one to watch.  He has slowly gained momentum by being among the most positive on stage (except to moderators) and demonstrating his encyclopedic knowledge and quick wit.  If it wasn’t for his personal baggage, he might already be the front-runner — and if both Cain and Perry stumble late, Republicans might be inclined to take on his baggage rather than hand Mitt Romney the nomination virtually unchallenged.

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Comment pages: 1 2

Perry is out (he was never really “in” it).

rrpjr on October 18, 2011 at 5:14 PM

What sauce will you like to go along with “eating your words” by close of this year?

TheRightMan on October 18, 2011 at 5:33 PM

What other candidate has forces shooting at smugglers as we speak?

juliesa on October 18, 2011 at 3:56 PM

What other candidate gave in-state tuition to illegal aliens? What other candidate opposed e-Verify? What other candidate suggested “bi-national health insurance”? What other candidate opposed SB1070? What other candidate said people who opposed his decisions were heartless?

MadisonConservative on October 18, 2011 at 4:04 PM

Probably, it’s safe to say, every single one. Unless you can show that other state’s schools actually check for legal status as well as residency…

applebutter on October 18, 2011 at 5:34 PM

It appears the illegals don’t think Perry is weak on border policy.

http://www.ktrh.com/cc-common/news/sections/newsarticle.html?feed=121300&article=9261275

kg598301 on October 18, 2011 at 5:40 PM

What other candidate has forces shooting at smugglers as we speak?

juliesa on October 18, 2011 at 3:56 PM

What other candidate gave in-state tuition to illegal aliens? What other candidate opposed e-Verify? What other candidate suggested “bi-national health insurance”? What other candidate opposed SB1070? What other candidate said people who opposed his decisions were heartless?

MadisonConservative on October 18, 2011 at 4:04 PM

In fact, I have a friend named Pablo. He lives in Texas, as do I. He is the son of legal immigrants from Mexico. And the state of Wisconsin provided Pablo with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, free of charge, apparently because there just aren’t enough Hispanics in Madison for them to feel sufficiently diverse. Do I suspect that UW Madison would have provided the same educational opportunities to someone without legal residency status?

In a word, yes.

applebutter on October 18, 2011 at 5:42 PM

I know this isn’t fair but is Herman Cain becoming the candidate of La Raza?

“In those areas where there’s no major contested Democratic primary then they ought to jump over and vote for Herman Cain in the Republican Party,” says Luis Vera the National General Counsel for LULAC.

It’s a tactic that Hector Chavana with the La Raza Justice Movement says conservatives have employed in the past.

Thanks for the link kg598301.

Bill C on October 18, 2011 at 5:44 PM

Perry needs a big, positive performance in tonight’s debate in order to change minds about his prospects and recover some of his standing in the party.

At this point Perry needs to do some kind of magic trick that will make all the other candidates disappear. Or maybe he could perform some miracles of healing the sick in the audience.

InkyBinkyBarleyBoo on October 18, 2011 at 5:51 PM

Maybe if he came out wearing two pearl handled six-shooters and fired off a few rounds near the other candidates feet.

InkyBinkyBarleyBoo on October 18, 2011 at 5:53 PM

He will at the very least have to do a moon-walk.

InkyBinkyBarleyBoo on October 18, 2011 at 5:54 PM

Maybe if he came out wearing two pearl handled six-shooters and fired off a few rounds near the other candidates feet.

InkyBinkyBarleyBoo on October 18, 2011 at 5:53 PM

And he’d probably miss and shoot himself in the foot.

Knucklehead on October 18, 2011 at 6:02 PM

The only rules Perry will break tonight are those of English grammar and diction.

BKennedy on October 18, 2011 at 6:04 PM

The Number One issue is jobs, and Perry’s Phase 1 plan is the only one put out by any of the candidates to immediately address that issue.

Seems like most of the posters in HotAir are exactly that, full of hot air, and many of the “pundits” don’t really understand the manufacturing economy and importance of the No. 1 Raw material which could be available at a long stable competitive price right here in the U.S. Not only that lots of manufacturers are having to import basic products made from these raw materials to met demand, as we post away.

Kermit on October 18, 2011 at 6:08 PM

It appears the illegals don’t think Perry is weak on border policy.

http://www.ktrh.com/cc-common/news/sections/newsarticle.html?feed=121300&article=9261275

kg598301 on October 18, 2011 at 5:40 PM

Thank you for posting this; I read it yesterday and wanted to post it here, but couldn’t remember where I’d found it. Thanks, again!

-Aslan’s Girl

Aslans Girl on October 18, 2011 at 6:13 PM

Cain’s never coddled Muslims as a governor, I’ll give you that.

Akzed on October 18, 2011 at 3:55 PM

That’s from August and it was debunked in August. See this post to read the debunking.

-Aslan’s Girl

Aslans Girl on October 18, 2011 at 6:15 PM

Seems like most of the posters in HotAir are exactly that, full of hot air, and many of the “pundits” don’t really understand…

Kermit on October 18, 2011 at 6:08 PM

We are talking about a candidate who is sinking into Gary Johnson poll numbers territory. He took a 20-point lead and committed stone cold suicide.

If there is anyone who doesn’t ‘get it’, its your guy.

sharrukin on October 18, 2011 at 6:16 PM

Until then – all you have is a Conservative Obama without the Money and Organization that Obama had in 2008.

HondaV65 on October 18, 2011 at 3:56 PM

Cain’s not a conservative, that 999 plan is anything but conservative.

-Aslan’s Girl

Aslans Girl on October 18, 2011 at 6:17 PM

I’m giving up on the electorate as represented in Hot Air, as being ignorant, dumb and stupid.

When a candidate issues a plan which is lock and sure fired way to create not just 1.2 million jobs, but many more over the first year, gets no play and actual write up by a decent author on HotAir is quite ignorant, dumb and stupid. The failure to see that this a general election winner in Midwestern states is shortsighted as could ever be imagined.

The failure to see that such a plan creates the Rise in American Manufacturing much more than it does to lower gasoline prices…

What can I say? I suppose we will get Romney or 999 for candlestick makers and some sort of service industry selling products made in China.

Kermit on October 18, 2011 at 6:48 PM

Instead all we have is worry about the “Cult of Personality” where substance is a negative.

Kermit on October 18, 2011 at 6:50 PM

I sure hope so. He ought to call Romney out for being the lying snake he is.

lonestar1 on October 18, 2011 at 6:53 PM

Is there really anyone who doesn’t think that plan will be 15-15-15 after Congress gets hold of it?

kg598301 on October 18, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Is there really anyone who doesn’t think that plan will be 15-15-15 after Congress gets hold of it?

kg598301 on October 18, 2011 at 6:57 PM

As opposed to our current tax code, which is something like 35-15-3-2-5-7-8-9-4-1-15-6.25-14.

And I think that’s just the first 20 pages.

It is much harder to change three highly visible, publicly known taxes than it is to change any of our hundreds of different specialty taxes, tax breaks, tax credits, and loopholes.

Congress could double your taxes tomorrow under the current tax code and you wouldn’t know it until your next paycheck hit.

BKennedy on October 18, 2011 at 7:15 PM

The Not-Mitt crowd will be forced to back Newt by Christmas… An outcome that not even Newt is planning for given his belt-size right now

phreshone on October 18, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Newt!

I’m hoping Perry does does well too, but I’ve given up on him saying anything worthwhile in these things.

I want Cain to be challenged on Foreign Policy and his apologetic behavior for his electrified fence joke is pretty lame. If he was joking, he shouldn’t have to apologize and should gone on the offensive by telling the media they need to learn to take a joke and start going into detail why illegal immigration is such a problem. His apology, “sorry if I offended anybody”, makes him look weak and just like a politician and reminds me of his backtrack on his Muslims comment. He never said he wouldn’t want Muslims in his cabinet, he said he would be concerned or uncomfortable that radicals might slip in. Stand up to them Cain.

Daemonocracy on October 18, 2011 at 7:23 PM

Kermit on October 18, 2011 at 6:08 PM

There was a front page thread on his energy policy, what are you talking about? And as important as his energy policy is, he only released phase 1 of his plan. As important as energy is, it is tax reform and budget policy that will really turn heads and he has not released anything on that yet.

Daemonocracy on October 18, 2011 at 7:29 PM

BKennedy on October 18, 2011 at 6:04 PM

Hahahaha, I think you’re right…I don’t think debating is is strong suit. Obama would eat his lunch.

DanaSmiles on October 18, 2011 at 7:49 PM

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