Is Rick Perry wasting our time? He came out with a great energy plan. He came out with an amazing economic plan. But I get the sense the campaign is in denial. Word is leaking that he may start skipping debates.I don't blame anyone for skipping some of the debates. There are far too many and they do little more than provoke fights without substantive conversations on the issues. I'm cool with any of the candidates skipping debates. But the Heritage/AEI debate on Foreign Policy must be non-negotiable for all the candidates. They need to be there and answer these questions. Foreign policy is the one area in the constitution the President largely has unrestricted power. We need to know what they would do.I don't think the Perry campaign really understands just how uninspired Rick Perry has left his own base of supporters, let alone the existing undecideds. To his credit though, he gave an entire speech this week and did not mention Texas. He's learning. I don't think he is wasting our time. But he needs to shore up his base of support quickly — probably more quickly than his campaign realizes.In the meantime, the Romney camp is still targeting the Perry camp, largely because they don't see the Cain camp as viable. The Cain camp continues building steam. Ron Paul is encountering his own version of Romney's problem, and sneaking up from the rear is a guy most of us had written off.We'll get into all in the Horserace.
The Bachmann camp really believes she can make a play in Iowa and take on Mitt Romney. She is not a Romney stalking horse. That may be what happens with her in the race. But her campaign really believes it can win Iowa. Unfortunately for Bachmann, the money is not flowing as she'd like it. Her New Hampshire team is gone — not that she ever cared about New Hampshire. But it seems the wheels are coming off the Bachmann campaign as it has veered off a path to victory and onto a path of irrelevance. Notwithstanding that, Michele Bachmann has a strong chance to revitalize at the Heritage/AEI debate. She is very, very good on foreign policy and has a background on the Intelligence Committee the other candidates do not.
That Herman Cain ad is just weird. This is a mirror of the Perry problem. Perry imploded in debates and proved himself not a credible candidate based on his handling of the debates. Cain has released some of the stupidest ads this campaign season. His problem is the overall image of his campaign.It has worked to his advantage so far in that the other candidates ignored him and he got into first place. But he can only stay there for so long and projecting a frivolous image in his advertising won't help. That said, as the race stands right now, any consolidation that happens against Romney is going to help Cain.We know, however, the Romney camp is not worried about him. Why? They've barely touched him. When the Romney camp goes into attack mode, you'll know Herman's lead is more locked in.
Gingrich is going after Cain. It's a wise move for him. His polling is coming up. It has surprised a lot of people, myself included, who thought his campaign was dead. He's got a pulse and he sees a path to victory. But that path involves taking out Herman Cain and hoping that the Cain supporters come to him. We're all seeing the phenomenon. When one candidate peaks and falls, someone else goes up against Romney. Gingrich thinks he is the next guy to go up and it is a smart guess to make. If Cain implodes, his supporters will go to Gingrich or back to Perry. Of course, Gingrich has to throw Cain off his game without seeming like a bad guy. That's while he'll focus on the national sales tax part of 999.
Does he still have a campaign?
Ron Paul has a Mitt Romney problem. Romney is capped out at about 25% of the electorate. For Romney, that's good enough to be the nominee if the race does not consolidate. Paul is capped out at about 13%. That's not good enough to be the nominee. He does not have the ability to build a winning coalition. Ironically, a lot of polling shows most Paul supporters would drift to Romney. So Paul staying in hurts Romney more than anyone else. But he will not be the nominee.
He had a good debate performance in Vegas. But just one really good performance. His campaign now says he may stop debating. He cannot have one good performance after a series of flubs and decide he is good. He particularly cannot miss the Heritage/AEI debate, though I suspect a number of the questioners would be hostile to him. He just can't do it. Why? Because they are the two big conservative think tanks and foreign policy is a relevant, pressing issue that has yet to be explored.Perry can skip a lot of the December debates. Hell, he and the rest of the candidates should go on now and say no to NBC's January debate with the hacks from Politifact.But he cannot skip this coming debate after just one good performance. If he does, I think it is game over for him because he'll look both scared and weak.All that said, Perry's jobs/energy and economic plans have been super solid, very conservative, and filled with pro-growth, limited government ideas. He can be proud of his plans. He has an expanded team and a lot of money. But Perry needs to re-engage.I don't think his campaign understands just how frustrated his core supporters are, how depressed they are by him on the trail, and how badly undecided voters think he has performed. Perry needs to do serious damage control to win hearts and minds and he only has about a month and a half to do it. He's got the money. I'm not sure he has the time or the self-discipline.
The odds grow every day that Mitt Romney will be the nominee. He is continuing to focus on Perry because his analysis is the same as mine — this remains really a Perry v. Romney race. Romney has kept the base from settling for him because of his last debate performance, his Ohio misstep earlier this week, and the rest of his record.But as long as the field does not consolidate against him, he can survive and win without the race settling. Mitt Romney will be the nominee unless Perry, Gingrich, or Cain seriously step up their game.
Santorum will not be the nominee.