Texas Governor Rick Perry raised more than a few eyebrows when his campaign floated the idea that there might be better “time management” agenda items than flying around to an endless series of primary debates. Speaking as one of the people who has to watch – and write about – all of these dog and pony shows, I admit that I had a bit of sympathy for the concept. But it drew a lot of additional fire on his campaign, and now it seems that we’ll at least be seeing Rick at some of them.
Rick Perry plans to participate in at least five more presidential primary debates, his campaign said Saturday, dismissing speculation that the Texas governor’s lackluster performances so far would lead him to skip future Republican debates.
Perry, who has struggled through parts of his first five debates, will attend all of the events currently scheduled in November as well as a December debate, his spokesman, Ray Sullivan, told The Associated Press…
“Shoot, I may get to be a good debater before this is all over,” Perry joked during a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Friday.
There is probably a middle path here, and at this point it looks like Perry may be sharp enough find it. Bailing out on the debate circuit entirely was never a viable option, since it would have been taken as a sign of total retreat and defeat, but it’s important to remember that he never actually said he wasn’t doing any more. The original quote from the campaign was that they were going to, “evaluate each debate as it comes and take each one on its own merits.”
That seems to be the smartest move, at least in general. There are clearly too many debates on the docket at this point, and they suck up a ton of the candidates’ time. (A commodity which is arguably even more important than campaign cash.) Perry seems to be best at retail politics and wants to be out meeting community leaders in the early states, pressing the flesh and taking his case directly into people’s living rooms as much as possible. But some of the debates will be critical – particularly the ones taking place in the early primary states. The national audience may not be tuning in to these performances in large numbers yet, but the most motivated, likely voters in each state (who are obviously the folks you need to win over) will be watching the one which takes place in their own back yard and addresses the issues specific to their community.
So where will Perry be appearing? The five listed ones include South Carolina and Iowa, which are pretty much no-brainers to RSVP for. There’s also one in Washington, D.C. which doesn’t meet the “local impact” criteria, but will probably be a better national draw just for the venue. The last two, though, are in Arizona and Michigan, which are rather curious. Arizona, despite some not very veiled threats from Jan Brewer, looks like it still won’t go until the end of February and Michigan – while an important state in the general – is tentatively slated for the same day. For all we know, the race could be effectively over by then if somebody doesn’t score some early body blows on Romney coming out of New Hampshire.
Still, if Perry picks his battles wisely, he should be able to hit enough of the debates to deliver the most bang for the buck while avoiding charges of “running away” and leaving himself enough free time for retail politicking. Plus, he’s getting out in front of the insinuations, telling reporters that he’s not a bit worried about debating Obama next fall. I’d have to say this is a smart call at this stage, and his campaign looks like it’s recovering nicely from what could have been a death blow to his chances.