Posted at 02:12 PM ET, 10/12/2011

New Hampshire debate: Perry still in the hot seat

After a steep drop-off in his poll numbers, Rick Perry sat down at the Republican debate table Tuesday night with much to prove after three shaky debates, and stumbles on the stump. He needed to be sharp, quick, and show that he could go toe-to-toe with Mitt Romney.

Well, the reviews are in and they are good and bad.

The consensus seems to be this: Perry’s no debater, but he’s got money.
HANOVER, NH - OCTOBER 11: Texas Gov. Rick Perry during the presidential debate sponsored by The Washington Post and Bloomberg at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. (Photo by Toni Sandys/The Washington Post) (Toni Sandys - THE WASHINGTON POST)

“He’s never won campaigns because he’s the most articulate candidate or because he’s the brightest intellect. He always wins campaigns because he sticks a fork in his opponent’s eyeball,” said Alex Castellanos on CNN. Castellanos is a Republican strategist who advised Romney in 2008 “And he has got enough money in the bank and there are enough super PACs out there....I would expect to see some very tough ads from Rick Perry pretty soon in the Boston and Iowa media markets.”

On Monday, the Perry campaign released an ad hitting Romney on health care, and as Romney sat around the debate table Tuesday night, his campaign issued press releases slamming Romney that the Texas governor was unable to deliver in person.

Perry raised $17 million in 49 days, putting in an impressive performance for the third fundraising quarter, even as Romney outshone him debate after debate.

Last night, speaking at a fraternity house, Perry conceded that debates aren’t his strong suit, and his campaign, which had released details about debate study sessions, seems to have permantly lowered expecations, saying that the country wants a commander-in-chief not a debater-in-chief.

“I think to a certain extent, he has...historically, ducked them...He’d have been better off if he could have ducked these,” said Ed Rollins, who was advising Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign in an MSNBC interview. “I think at the end of the day, Perry is still going to be in this race. He’s still got money to spend. You know, we have a long month in January.”

Yet Rollins departed from what had been conventional wisdom up until now, saying that the contest won’t stretch on until the summer.

“I don’t think this is one of these that’s a Hillary-Obama that’s going to get dragged to the end,” Rollins said. “I think by the end of January, we’ll know who our nominee is.”

The next Republican presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 18th in Las Vegas, Nev., where the percentage of Mormons in the Republican primary will be as much as 25 percent. Romney, whose Mormon religion has become a controversial in recent days, won that contest in 2008.

Erik Erickson of Redstate.com suggested on his web site that Perry will do better in that debate, and that it’s too early to write him off, given where he stands in the money race.

“The interesting thing is a lot of the talking heads, they’re saying Perry lost the debate because he didn’t shine,” Erickson said on CNN. “There are a lot of conservative activists out there, Perry supporters who’ve been very critical of him, saying, hey, last night wasn’t as bad as that last debate. Maybe, he’s turning it around.”

Even as his advisers try to brush aside the importance of debates, others still expect a better showing from the Texas governor and leading presidential contender.

“The debates are a key part of the whole campaign, the whole campaign system,” Wayne MacDonald, chairman of the New Hampshire GOP said on MSNBC. “Every debate cycle is important. I think Governor Perry might be selling himself short.”

By  |  02:12 PM ET, 10/12/2011

 
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