The Perry Problem and the Romney Alternative
Rick Perry is a horrible debater. If you did not think so before last night, you must now concede the point.Reading through the book about Dave Carney and Perry’s eggheads, the Perry camp concluded that debates really are not that impactful. Perry has not had a debate since
2005 2010 (corrected. Perry had two primary debates in 2010, but otherwise has refused debates with Democratic opponents since 2005) and, I am told, is simply not a good debater — staff and prep have nothing to do with it.But in this cycle, we have just concluded the third of five debates in a row. The debates have become the best way to introduce the candidates to the largest possible audience of GOP voters at one time without spending gobs of money. Consequently, while debates may not have a typically large impact, they are having an impact right now. It is reflected in Perry’s poll numbers drifting downward.At the same time, there are a lot of people who still crave an alternative to Mitt Romney. Romney, for all his attacks on Rick Perry and social security, is doing himself no favors. His campaign team may think it is a winning issue for them, but Romney continues to stand as a less likable John McCain in this election cycle.I’ve already gotten the opposition research book on Mitt Romney that the McCain 2008 campaign prepared. It is 198 pages of stuff that McCain never seemed to get around to using. If I’ve gotten the book, others have gotten the book. Some of the stuff is no big deal. A lot of it is a big deal if only to highlight the consistently changing positions of Mitt Romney.That’s why voters don’t like him and want an alternative. Rick Perry stands on the precipice. He is about to fall off. If he wants to be the anti-Romney candidate, he needs to do a few things quickly. First, he needs to get a comprehensive economic plan out soon. Second, he needs to answer some tough questions on immigration. Third, he needs to talk about America more than Texas. Fourth, he needs to not lose the next two debates. He does not have to win. He just cannot lose.If Perry can hold his own in the debates he’ll be fine not winning the debates outright. But another performance like last night could push him off the edge of support among people who want an anti-Romney alternative, but who really want to beat Barack Obama even more.