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Wait and See

The Texas governor turned presidential candidate isn't as sick as he looks. And by the way, he wasn't as healthy as he looked a couple of weeks ago.

Gov. Rick Perry at the Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College on Oct. 11, 2011.

You know this, if you've thought about it, the same way you know what happens when you watch too closely and interpret too quickly the stock prices in your retirement account.

It goes up, it goes down. It's the trend line that counts, and the governor's is still under construction. He started with a bang, dropped quickly, and now we get to find out whether he can fight back.

Rick Perry could very well be cooked, but it's too early to know for sure. Mitt Romney started as and remains the favorite. He's done this before, from eating corn dogs and talking about the miracle of ethanol to raising money in 50 states. Like George W. Bush, he was raised in a political family and was probably raiding the shrimp bowl at fundraisers when he was eight years old. Perry and a number of the other Not Romneys are new to the race and to a fair amount of the subject matter that will be on the test, like foreign affairs, and the real intricacies of what the federal government does.

Perry has money enough to last into January; if he falls short, it'll be on the merits over time. And he's not yet defined, though he's on his way to it. If he looks like a president after voters have halved the Republican pack and had a good look at what's left, he's got a shot. If not, he'll be out early next year.

Right now, Perry is running third or fourth in most polls, consistently behind Romney and Herman Cain and, depending on the poll, behind either Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich. For what it's worth (something to talk about over coffee and not a lot more), the guy in third place at this point four years ago, according to RealClearPolitics.com, was John McCain.

And while you're sweating out the presidential race — both Perry's friends and his enemies have the sweats, if for different reasons — don't forget about the veepstakes. Presidential candidates sometimes pluck their running mates from the people who opposed them, so long as they showed strength. If it's Romney, a southern Christian might make an appealing dance partner.

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