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The Brief: Oct. 28, 2011

Fellow Republican candidates aren't coming to Rick Perry's defense over the possibility that he might skip future debates. But to some extent, they can sympathize.

Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich at the Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College on Oct. 11, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Fellow Republican candidates aren't coming to Rick Perry's defense over the possibility that he might skip future debates. But to some extent, they can sympathize.

Perry representatives' recent suggestions that the governor may miss upcoming showdowns to campaign in early-primary states have drawn fire from opponents who say the governor is trying to dodge the debate stage, where he has stumbled mightily in recent weeks.

Rick Santorum on Thursday said, "I'd never skip a debate. I'd never skip the opportunity to let the American public know what I think about these issues." Newt Gingrich added, "I don't see how somebody can say that they can't debate Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul, but they'll be ready to debate Barack Obama."

But as The New York Times reports, Perry's hesitancy has raised the question of how many debate commitments the Republican candidates — even those starved for national attention — can keep. As the Times notes, more than a dozen face-offs are scheduled through January, and in just one example of candidates' potentially packed schedules, an ABC News debate has been scheduled for a Saturday night in January and a Meet the Press debate on NBC for the next morning.

And the networks, at least for now, don't appear to be backing down. “The candidates are aware of our two debates planned for January 2012, and the reach of the NBC broadcast audience,” Erika Masonhall, the director of NBC News communications, told the Times. "We feel confident in our plans."

As for Perry, whose representatives said he'll participate in the Nov. 9 debate in Michigan, the political ramifications of bypassing future engagements are still uncertain.

As Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post wrote on Thursday: "If Perry doesn’t participate in a series of debates, voters just starting to tune into the race will be greeted with scads of media coverage about whether he is running away from former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Not exactly a good introduction to Perry."

Culled:

  • Republican activists in New Hampshire have grown frustrated with Rick Perry, who they say hasn't tried to seriously compete in the early-primary state despite earlier signs that he would, The Dallas Morning News reports. “He’s been here a lot less than some of the guys,” the chairman the Manchester Republican Party told the Morning News. “He could get traction up here like anybody else by putting in the shoe leather.” Perry isn't expected to win the state (polls have consistently shown Mitt Romney with an overwhelming lead), but an especially poor showing could complicate Perry's prospects if he underperforms in Iowa. He'll swing through the state today to fundraise, officially file for the primary and meet with the New Hampshire Union Leader editorial board.
  • Rick Perry returns to New Hampshire today with one fewer high-profile Granite State politician on his side. Longtime New Hampshire state Rep. Norman Major, who endorsed Perry over a month ago, is now supporting Mitt Romney. “When I met Perry, I listened to him and he represented all the things I wanted to see accomplished,” Major told the Union Leader. “He accomplished a lot in the state of Texas, but as I saw him in the debates and how he handles himself, I realized he isn’t going to beat Obama.”
  • The Austin American-Statesman reports that Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson on Thursday encouraged a state board to proceed with consideration of Confederate-flag license plates, which Rick Perry earlier this week came out against. Patterson, who has said he supports the plates from a historical perspective, told the Tribune on Wednesday that the national media had essentially forced Perry to voice his opposition. "They have created a controversy where none really existed," Patterson said. "It's pretty damn disgusting, actually."

“I thought Texas governors were supposed to be tough."Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for Rick Santorum, on Rick Perry potentially skipping future debates

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