Immediately after the last GOP debate, I thought that Rick Perry had done poorly, and that Herman Cain might be the beneficiary. Now that the dust has cleared, it is apparent that Perry’s campaign suffered an implosion of epic proportions, and that as a consequence Cain’s campaign has for the first time begun to show some life.
Perry’s supporters are now saying that everyone has a bad day, so Perry should not be written off. Perry himself commented,
As conservatives we know that values and vision matter. It’s not who is the slickest candidate or the smoothest debater that we need to elect. We need to elect the candidate with the best record and the best vision for this country.
This is all true. However, Perry did not just have a bad day in this debate. He had bad days in the two previous debates: This was a meltdown. Further, Perry failed in the debate not just on his ability to speak smoothly, but on the presentation of his values and on the defense of his record.
How bad was the debate for Perry? As bad as could be.
He lied at least twice. The first was in his depiction of his views on Social Security:
While I have not read his book, in the previous debate Perry brought up the possibility of turning Social Security over to the states. Everyone heard it. Perry was correct that Romney edited the paperback version of his book to remove his statement on Romneycare, but this does not let Perry off the hook. Everyone knows Romney’s habit of bobbing and ducking. The point is that Perry has been presenting himself as the un-Romney.
Perry’s second lie was on Gardasil:
Bachmann’s statement was completely unconvincing, and as a result her campaign seems to be finished. However, Perry’s explanation was reprehensible, as he made it seem as though he was motivated in ordering the mandate by a personal concern for Heather Burcham. However, he did not meet Burcham until afterwards, as she was part of a lobbying campaign to keep the mandate in place.
But what most conservatives will remember are not Perry’s lies, but this exchange on immigration:
While Perry’s statement on supporting Arizona is technically true, he has tried to walk back this support to some extent. Perry defended in-state tuition by calling his opponents heartless. He did not even answer Santorum’s point about bi-national insurance. However, he implied that anyone who wanted a border fence was just plain ignorant. Strange, as the border fence was given some support by the Bush administration, and Bush was Perry’s predecessor as governor of Texas.
If this was all bad enough, we have Perry sounding incoherent while trying to accuse Romney of being a flip-flopper:
In this debate, Perry came across as shifting, dissembling, and insincere–in short, as a typical politician. He became “Romney-ized”.
Apparently, Perry thought that he could write a book, stand on Texas’s record as a great state, and tell people what they wanted to hear, and then everyone would fall in love with him as the new Messiah. However, after three years of Obama, who was elected by writing a book, hiding his record, and telling people what they wanted to hear, GOP voters are looking for a little bit more in a candidate.
There is nothing Perry can do to bring back the magic, and to convince voters that he is not a typical politician. However, as a typical politician, he can still win back some support, as he is still a conservative alternative to Romney.
How can he do this? First, he needs to start defending his record and his positions. It does no good to lie, shift attention to his opponents’ failures, or to engage in name-calling. He has to explain what, as governor, he has done and what he stands for. Thus far, he has been largely unable to do this.
Second, he has to be able to spell out what he would do as president. He has talked about jobs, but has no jobs plan. He has talked about Social Security, but has no plan for that either. Mostly, he has talked about how wonderful Texas is and has taken potshots at his opponents. This is not enough.
Third, he has to articulate a vision for the United States, and explain why America would be better off under Perry as opposed to Obama. In this area as well, he has fallen far short of expectations. While he has offered up vague sentiments, he has been unable to impart a vision of what a Perry administration would be like.
If Perry can do these things, then he will find himself back in the race. It is not enough to be merely conservative–Perry needs to demonstrate that he is on top of national issues, and that he is capable enough for the job.
Republicans cannot afford to send into a debate with Obama a stumbling, bumbling candidate who appears unprepared and incompetent. If Perry wishes to stay in this race and win it, he needs to show Republicans that he has more to offer than just conservative red meat.
- Romney is Running Rings Around Perry (commentarymagazine.com)
- Buzzard Bait: Rick Perry’s Immigration Blunder Took Him From Hero to Zero (theothermccain.com)
- 2012 presidential scoreboard update (blogs.dailymail.com)
- Is Rick Perry Done? (riehlworldview.com)
- ORLANDO GOP STRAW POLL RESULTS UPDATE: Herman Cain Beats Rick Perry (theothermccain.com)