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Rick Perry needs to figure out that his problem is not Mitt Romney. If all he’s going to do from now at the debates is attack one particular individual (and that individual is not Obama but a fellow Republican), then it’s all smooth-sailing to also-ran status no matter how many excellent plans he rolls out or how often he makes his fan swoon by raining fire and brimstone down on Mitt Romney for flip-flopping on A, B and C.
His problem is the fact that his campaign up till now remains enamored of ridiculous notions like “debates don’t matter” (which may have been valid in Texas but never on the national stage), but also the fact that both he and his campaign have been hideously amateurish and apparently completely at a loss competing at this level. The fact that Dave Carney’s last two Presidential campaigns were Bush-Quayle ’92 and Dole-Kemp ’96 is not particularly confidence-inspiring.
Even more confidence-sapping is the fact that no member of the Perry campaign’s upper echelons was able to figure out that running for President of the United States (where debates – no matter what you think of these ones in particular – do matter) is very different in both degree and kind from running for Governor of Texas. It took not one, not two, but three profoundly underwhelming debates (not to mention poll numbers steadily crashing like Obama-era economic growth numbers) before Dave Carney, Rob Johnson & co. realized “Oh s***! Hey Rick! Let’s try something different … Let’s prepare this time!“
I’m no expert, but if I were advising Perry, I’d tell him that the solution is for him is not to carry on with this obsession with Mitt Romney, and it’s certainly not to ape Sir Robin and bravely run away from the debates, but to shift the cross-hairs away from Mitt Romney and firmly settle them on Newt Gingrich.
Not as a target for destruction, but emulation.
So far the only person who looks wholly better after these debates than before them is Newt Gingrich.
So why not study what obviously works and try and modify it to work for you?
To me, the first thing to notice about Newt’s debate performances is that, by and large, he answers the question asked. Once you realize that, it’s really no mystery why he always comes off well from these things. His answers are always topical to the question – which means he’s not always returning to the same buzz-phrases and slogans e.g. “get America working again” when the question was about America’s relationship with the EU or restarting the NASA shuttle program. It really does grate on the ear.
So here’s my strange new idea for Governor Perry; answer the question. You may challenge the premise, force the moderator to ask it differently, or restate it yourself so you can answer it the way you want, but you must at least be seen to engage with the question and provide an answer to it. You can’t just respond to a question on, for example, stem cell research with “get America working again.”
Second, and just as important, Newt obviously knows who the real enemy is, and its not any one of the men or the woman on the stage with him. His sharp refusal to allow himself to be led into attacking his fellow Republicans when the real enemy is Obama and his passionately loyal support staff in the supposedly non-partisan objective media (who are clearly using these debates to make the Republican candidates bloody themselves and create divisions within the GOP’s activist base), probably won him more hearts and minds among the GOP Primary electorate than the entirety of his campaign prior to then.
The GOP base may despise the DC Republican establishment and harbor a deep intense dislike for Barack Obama, but it absolutely, positively, white-hot hates the mainstream media.
So here’s a novel idea; tap into that. Pull a Gingrich, with some Perry thrown in.
If I were advising Rick Perry, I’d advise him to take the first opportunity he has, look into the camera at the next debate and say something like this;
Over the past few months, we’ve had several of these debates and with the exception of one or two of us on this stage, we’ve all fallen into the news media trap of just beating up on each other instead of focusing on the big picture – how to get America working again. The first step of getting America working again is making sure that Barack Obama is a one-term President, that his continued assault on the American economy with job-killing taxes and regulations, on business, on our industries and job creation and job creators stop. And the only way that will happen is if we make sure that come the end of January 2013, Barack Obama would be referred to as the former President of the United States.
And you know what? Every single person on this stage, any one of them here, would be a better President than the man we have in the White House today. So I’m making a promise right now, that whoever wins our great party’s nomination, I’m going to support him, or her, 100%. Because we absolutely cannot afford another four years of Barack Obama. So I’m going to make a promise right now, that I’m not going to be attacking anyone on this stage again. You don’t build yourself up by tearing someone down. Instead, I’m going to be talking about how we can get our fiscal house in order, how we can make America energy independent, how we can get our investors to start investing again, so our economy can start growing again, and we can get America working again.
If Perry can successfully pull something like this off, he’s going to make millions of Republicans who have already written him off sit up and take notice. Better yet, he will take the elder statesman role and make anyone who attacks him look like an ******e.
If he can then make sure he does the following …
… then I would bet anything that he would be rocketing back to the top of the polls.
After the debates, Perry’s major problem is convincing the GOP Primary electorate that he is good enough, that he’s the better bet – not that Mitt Romney (as if it’s news) is a flip-flopper.