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The Brief: Oct. 27, 2011

Bedeviled by debates, Rick Perry may have settled on a familiar strategy: skip them.

The set at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. on Oct. 10, 2011, the night before Rick Perry's fourth Republican presidential…

The Big Conversation:

Bedeviled by debates, Rick Perry may have settled on a familiar strategy: skip them.

Representatives for the governor said Wednesday that he may miss upcoming debates to spend time with voters in early-primary states.

“It seems like doing another dozen or 18 debates is not realistic," said Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan, according to the San Antonio Express-News, adding, "The governor has done five debates. We will do more, and we expect to accomplish our goals and have the governor convey his strong record and ideas in those debates."

Perry told Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday that he may have made a mistake by participating in recent Republican presidential debates. But the campaign denied that the governor's notoriously uneven track record on the debate stage would play any role in the determination.

"It is a function of time and energy, not the content of the debates,” Sullivan said.

Another Perry spokesman, Mark Miner, told Politico that the governor would participate in the next debate, set for Nov. 9 in Michigan, but that he couldn't confirm any additional engagements.

In his 2010 gubernatorial race, Perry famously refused to debate Democrat Bill White until White released more thorough tax returns. (Perry has, incidentally, asked Romney to do the same.) But a similar debate-skipping strategy probably wouldn't work for Perry on the national stage.

“Not attending the debates would just reinforce the image that he’s not ready for prime time — that he can’t compete on that playing field, therefore he’s choosing not to play," Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, told the Express-News. “The only way I think Perry doesn’t get hurt by this is if Romney, Cain and Paul say the same thing. And that’s not going to happen."

The news came the same day that Perry appeared to have begun a course correction, coming out against Confederate license plates and dispelling any doubts about the legitimacy of President Obama's birth certificate — an issue that threatened to overshadow the announcement of Perry's flat-tax economic plan earlier this week.

Culled:

  • According to a new CNN/Time poll, Rick Perry has fallen into the second tier of Republican candidates in each of the first four primary states. He's tied for fourth place in Iowa with 10 percent, sixth in New Hampshire with 4 percent, fourth in South Carolina with 11 percent and fourth in Florida with 6 percent. Given the poll's 5 percent margin of error, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul is now running ahead of or statistically tied with Perry in each of those four states.
  • The San Antonio Express-News reports that the U.S. Justice Department has called two of Texas' redistricting maps discriminatory in response to a filing from Attorney General Greg Abbott seeking a ruling on the maps without a trial. The Justice Department opinion, based on whether newly drawn districts meet federal minority voting-rights standards, means that a federal panel in San Antonio may draw interim maps for the state while a trial takes place in Washington.
  • Politico has a look at the increasingly common interests of Barack Obama and Rick Perry, who now share a mutually beneficial goal: destroying Mitt Romney. "It will be hard for Romney to beat Obama if he can’t get out from under the flip-flop narrative," said former Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Karen Finney. "It plays into concerns the primary voters have that he can’t be trusted, [and it’s] equally important in a general election against an incumbent president people like and trust."
  • The Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday that U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, has decided against running for U.S. Senate. McCaul, whose personal wealth some said would have made him a top-tier contender in the crowded race to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, instead said he'd seek re-election to the House.

“If the numbers stay like they are, all Rick Perry is going to do is make some noise and sell some books.” — Fox News host Shepard Smith on Wednesday

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