ORLANDO, Fla. – Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to put the best spin Friday on his impression of a headlight-frozen deer in the previous night’s Republican presidential debate, seeking to quiet a chorus of party activists and strategists wondering aloud if he has what it takes.
“It’s not the slickest candidate or smoothest debater that we need to elect,” Perry said at a meeting here of the Conservative Political Action Committee, urging attendees instead to pick someone who will “stand their ground.”
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, meanwhile, had a prime 7:15 a.m. slot on Fox and Friends, basking in positive reviews for an aggressive debate performance, amid signs he has the chance to overtake the fading Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota as the voice of pure conservatives in the primary.
Santorum tangled with Perry Thursday night on the Texan’s record on illegal immigration, and drew attacks from both Perry and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.
It’s too early to tell whether Perry’s third straight rocky debate performance will dent his status as the GOP front-runner. After all, bad primary debate performances don’t always correlate with electoral failure, as another Texan, former President George W. Bush, proved.
Still, Perry did himself no favors by defending in-state college tuition for the children of undocumented immigrants and by occasional moments of incoherence on foreign policy and other topics.
The Perry campaign is working hard right now to persuade potential Republican primary voters that we need to elect a better president, not a better debater. And he’s right: the skills necessary to make a good debater have little to do with the job of being President. A good debater has to marshal as many of the facts as possible, and have them in his head, ready for use; a President is surrounded by advisors and staffers who have all of the information he needs to take a decision available. A good debater has to be able to think and respond at a moment’s notice, while we expect our President to take his time, as time allows, to consider the decisions he has to take, pondered and measured carefully. Barack Obama proved himself to be a capable debater, yet has turned out to be an incapable President.
But if being a good debater isn’t anything significantly related to being a good President, it may well be a requirement for becoming President, and if that is the case, Governor Perry is in some trouble. I haven’t seen any of the debates thus far, and I’m hesitant to accept the verdict of the professional media that he’s flubbed up, but when his own statements are indicative of the fact he believes his performance wasn’t very good in the debates, that is sufficient evidence for me.
Sister Toldjah did — sort of — watch the debate, and, as someone who describes herself as “leaning” toward Mr Perry, she was not very happy:
As someone who has been leaning Perry since the Texas Governor announced in South Carolina last month that he was declaring his candidacy, I was extremely disappointed in his performance – not so much for his policy positions but for the way he framed some of them, for the way he couldn’t clearly articulate his positions, and for not taking the primetime opportunities presented to him to count off one by one the times main rival and serial liar Mitt Romney has reinvented himself in order to attempt to win over specific political blocs that are crucial to his political success. I mean, there is no question that Governor Perry, who came off as confused at times – especially towards the latter half of the debate - absolutely blew it time and time again. This after a lackluster “second half” performance in the last debate. True, there are still several months left before the primaries start, but at this rate if he doesn’t shape up and turn things around, he’ll fall into the second tier so fast it will make his head spin – that is, if he hasn’t fallen into the second tier already. Perry strikes me as a warm, likeable, patriotic, down-home kinda guy – just the kind of person I’d love to see in the WH again – but all the best characteristics in the world won’t help you when you don’t come to the arena tanned, rested, and ready to rumble.
In her next paragraph, Sis noted that one of Governor Perry’s biggest problems was that he told the truth, and didn’t back off from it:
Which leads me to this: Rick Perry could have sailed through the debate last night with flying colors, but his comment about his support for the TX Dream Act and how if you didn’t support it you didn’t “have a heart” would have negated every other “win.” That is a NO NO. Big time no no. You simply DO NOT say this to conservatives who are sick of being viciously maligned by demagoguing liberals as “heartless” when it comes to any number of issues related to “being compassionate” for your fellow man. Unlike Mitt Romney, who has never taken a position he hasn’t waffled on five minutes later, Perry is clearly not going to back down on his support for the Texas Dream Act. That’s something that conservatives can either like him or dislike him for on the merits of (or lack thereof, however you view it) - but it is something he is better off explaining solely in terms of why he supported it and why he found it appropriate for his state to have put into place instead of shirking off any opposition as “heartless.” Red State’s Moe Lane has an excellent piece talking about how Perry – and other GOP candidates – should approach the illegal immigration issue on the whole that should be considered a must-read. For related commentary on the TX Dream Act – which, contra to popular myth, is not the same thing as the national Dream Act as pushed by President Obama, and which was overwhelmingly supported by the conservative Texas state legislature - read these two insightful pieces by Texans Kat McKinley and Bryan Preston.
Sis seems a bit more worried than I am at the moment:
Some comments I’ve read today have suggested that Perry supporters shouldn’t lose faith because “not everyone comes across well on the debate stage” and “this, too, shall pass.” Well, that’s nice if you want to bury your head in the sand, but I have envisioned for a long time now a GOP nominee who would be able to effortlessly go toe to toe with our slick celebrity President during the general election campaign season debates because, sadly, if the general public doesn’t pay attention to anything else during the two years of relentless campaigning by candidates, they do pay attention to the last couple of months of debates before the election. Whoever our eventual nominee is needs to be on their game 100% in order to be able not just to sell their message to Average Janes and Joes who don’t follow politics as closely as you and I do, but also to be able to counter the stream of rhetorical lies we’ll hear from the current WH occupant, lies not just about his own record but also about his opponent’s record – lies that will be amplified 10-fold by our complicit, liberal mainstream media.
Right now, Perry is not that person. In fact, I’m not sure who up on that stage last night could be.
But saying that I am less worried than Sis is does not mean I’m not worried at all. Barack Obama is an absolute disaster as President, and he simply has to be defeated, for the good of the country. But even though he is extremely vulnerable — polls are showing a shift, as more Americans are blaming President Obama for the state of the economy these days, while fewer still hold President Bush responsible, while Commentary notes that the most recent Gallup Poll shows that a majority of Americans believe President Obama is either no better (22%) or is worse (34%) a President than his predecessor¹ — he’s still the President of the United States, and he won’t be defeated by a poor candidate.
Governor Perry is clearly our best qualified candidate to become our next President; whether being our best qualified candidate makes him our best candidate to defeat President Obama is another matter.
¹ – The Democrats’ mantra was that George Bush was our “worst president ever,” and while I absolutely disagree with that, the Democrats’ demagoguery has certainly stuck with a lot of people. Now it seems that a substantial part of the populace agrees with me that it’s Mr Obama who is our Worst President Ever. Our good friend Henry Winkler said that President Obama was the best president of his lifetime, but it seems like a majority don’t think he’s close. Of course, Mr Winkler also wrote, “Clinton raised taxes, presided over an era of prosperity, and put the country on the road to paying down the deficit and shoring up Social Security. I’m betting that with eight years Obama will be able to say that and a lot more.” Well, he’ll have to do a whole lot better in the last year of his first term to be able to get the second four of the eight years Mr Winkler foresaw for him.