Everyone agrees: there's a lot at stake tonight for Gov. Rick Perry. His fourth nationally televised debate gives him a chance to reverse his dragging momentum after past performances left the impression he lacked the policy chops to take on President Barack Obama. If he turns in a poor performance, voters may begin to conclude he isn't ready to be president.
The Bloomberg/Washington Post forum at Dartmouth College will focus on economics, something that should be in Perry's favor — he's run his campaign based on his record of creating jobs in Texas. But primary voters will be looking for more than the same soundbites he's been repeating on the trail since he first started running, and Perry has yet to offer a detailed jobs plan. He's expected to deliver that in a speech in Pittsburgh on Friday.
The candidates will be seated for the first time during this debate. That set-up could benefit Perry, who had spine surgery over the summer and has been dogged by rumors that back pain has affected his performances.
Perry's biggest rival for the nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be looking to knock him squarely out of the race. Romney announced a key endorsement from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie this afternoon at a press conference where both came down hard on Perry's association with Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress, who called Mormonism a "cult" while introducing the Texas governor at an event on Friday.
It will also be the first debate since The Washington Post broke news that the Perry family leased a hunting camp that came with a racially offensive name. Since then, questions have arisen about whether Perry has a race problem, despite statements from the governor’s campaign that his family had painted over the rock that bore the offensive name of the camp.
We'll be liveblogging the action from Hanover, New Hampshire and Austin.
Romney points out key differences in his plan. Unlike Obamacare, he says it helps the only the uninsured and doesn't raise taxes. Then he works in an attack on Perry — saying that Texas has the highest number of uninsured kids, and that under Perry's leadership that number went up.
"I care about people," Romney says, adding that his approach was right for the people of Massachusetts, but that doesn't mean he would implement it as president.
Perry says that the Texas Legislature has total oversight of the fund and that it's created 64,000 jobs. "Those people who have jobs are absolutely happy that we have a program," he says. As for the projects directed to his donors, he emphasized again the role the Legislature plays in reviewing investments. "Everyone of those projects had the Lt. gov., the speaker's office, and the governor's office review them."
He says that his role in creating the Emerging Technology Fund is the "kind of leadership America is longing for."
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