The reaction to Mr. Perry’s performance was very, very harsh among these opinion leaders, including some who had generally been sympathetic to his campaign.
Erick Erickson of RedState, for instance, called Mr. Perry a “horrible debater.” William Kristol of the Weekly Standard labeled his performance as having been close to “disqualifying.”
But there was something else noteworthy about these critiques: while they universally agreed that Mr. Perry performed badly, there was nothing close to a consensus about which candidate might be the alternative to him…
[G]iven the lack of appreciable momentum for any of the other candidates — and that all of them had been polling in the single digits — Mr. Perry will probably get a second and perhaps even a third look before one of them has the chance to emerge as the consensus alternative to Mr. Romney. In the parlance of the bond rating agencies, it is appropriate to put Mr. Perry’s campaign on a “negative outlook,” but it is a little early for a full downgrade.