Donald Trump is at the center of the debate stage not because of his policy positions, but because he is the present vehicle for a disaffected base to signal their repudiation of the Washington Republican elite. Trump is a symptom and Perry needs to go after the cause.
He needs to make the case that the Washington Republicans have decided government is not the problem, but Democrats in charge of government is the problem. He needs to make the case that Republicans cannot tame the leviathan by feeding it. Rather they must slay it. He needs to make the case that Republicans should stop trying to manage big government, and instead must start curtailing big government.
Most importantly, Rick Perry needs to make the case that Republicans have failed to lead and continually broken their promises. He should call out Boehner and McConnell. Then he can point to his record in Texas to show he kept his promises, he reduced government, and he made government as inconsequential as possible to the lives of Americans.