Last week wasn’t Gov. Rick Perry’s best: He had a bad debate and lost two straw polls. Now the campaign must regroup with an eye toward additional pitfalls lining the campaign trail.
"Perry really did throw up all over himself in the debate,” Fox News’ Brit Hume said after Thursday’s forum in Orlando, Fla., at which Perry repeatedly stumbled over his answers. “At a time when he needed to raise his game, I mean, he did worse, it seems to me, than he had done in previous debates."
Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News
The next GOP debate is scheduled for Oct. 11 in New Hampshire. If Perry attends, don't expect a dramatic improvement, says Paul Burka, senior executive editor at Texas Monthly.
"Perry's has never been a really outstanding debater,” Burka said. “He's never really had to face a tough debate in a race that he could lose."
Perry has debated only five times since 2002, and he didn't debate Bill White, his Democratic opponent, in the 2010 governor’s race.
"So I just wonder if his competitive edge in the debate situation is just dulled by the fact that he never really had to face the media here,” Burka said. “He didn't go to editorial boards. He didn’t debate. So I just think you pay a price for that."
Perry’s poor debate performance seems to have dulled his appeal among the Republican political class, which has turned its attention largely back to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. But don't expect him to jump in, says Reid Wilson, editor of National Journal's Hotline.
"This is probably the field that's going to compete in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary,” Wilson said. A new candidate “might generate a little buzz, but Rick Perry generated a lot of buzz, and here he is — people are already looking for somebody new."
But several major-network debates still remain. And while Perry’s campaign team is no doubt coaching him hard in areas where he’s prone to stumble, Burka said there's a silver lining: Eventually the debates will end, and retail politics will take center stage.
"I think Perry will have an advantage in that format because he is better at the meet-and-greet and connecting with people than Mitt Romney is," Burka said.
And according to a new CNN poll conducted after the last debate, Perry is still leading the GOP field.
He’s also still raising money. As of June 30, Romney had raised almost as much money than the rest of the Republican field combined, but Wilson said that's not going to happen this time.
"Rick Perry is going to come out and probably show somewhere north of $10 million raised in just his first six weeks,” he said. “That's a fantastic start to this campaign."
A disappointing fundraising haul, though, could inflict lasting damage. And for one of the few times in his political career, Perry would have to begin campaigning from behind.
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