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September 23, 2011 / Political Fluency

Rick Perry Needs to Rebound Fast

Last night,  Rick Perry gave the second worst national debate performance I’ve ever seen since I began to follow politics in 1992. (First place belongs to John McCain in his second debate against Barack Obama. Third place goes to George W. Bush’s first debate against John Kerry. And tied for third is John McCain’s first debate performance against Barack Obama.)

The rules of the debate stated that if one candidate mentioned another, the mentioned candidate had 30 seconds to respond. Rick Perry kept gratuitously calling out Mitt Romney in many of his answers, which gave Romney the opportunity to rebut all of Rick Perry’s claims – usually with success. Romney’s formula for most answers, including the rebuttals to Perry’s attacks, were very polished: begin the answer as a complaint against Obama and then turn it around as to how great Mitt Romney would be as a solution as the next President of the United States.

The pundits and wannabe pundits are overreacting to Perry’s poor performance. He can still come back and win other debates (like the previous debate where he was the consensus winner) and get right back on track to being the clear frontrunner.

In order to do that he probably needs to win or at least tie the next debate, which isn’t until October 11th. The conservatives in the media will be rooting for him to do this because Perry is more liked than Romney. But we now have a basement level of debate performance possible from Perry that is absolutely terrible and if this level of performance shows up against Obama a year from now, the Republicans will almost certainly lose a winnable election.

Republican primary voters will keep that in mind as they choose between a more likely winner in Romney versus a more likely conservative country over the next four years with Perry.

If things stay the same or get worse economically, then Republicans are more likely to choose the more conservative Perry just as the Democrats picked the more liberal Obama over Hillary Clinton in a sure-win election. But not if Republicans think Perry is going to get creamed in a debate next year.

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