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Rick Perry’s New Hampshire speech: Playful or plain odd?

at 02:30 PM ET, 11/02/2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s speech on Friday night to a conservative audience in New Hampshire is generating considerable chatter in the political world.

Perry’s delivery and tone was considerably more relaxed than in the vast majority of his other public appearances as a presidential candidate. That much is without question. What is up for debate is why.

Some who attended the event viewed Perry’s tone as indicative of someone in a friendly environment enjoying the back and forth with a lively crowd.

As the Post’s Dan Balz wrote: “[Perry] appeared to feel totally at home, more so than in many other settings during the campaign. He was loose and extremely animated, even playful.”

Others had a dimmer view of Perry’s demeanor — with some raising questions about whether he had too much to drink during the dinner.

The head of the organization to which Perry spoke vehemently rejected that speculation. “I can tell you unequivocally he wasn’t drinking at the event and he hadn’t been drinking prior to the event,” Kevin Smith, executive director of Cornerstone Action, told The Hill newspaper. Smith added that Perry only drank water during the evening.

For his part, Perry insisted that he “felt great” during the speech.

Our take: The tone of the speech — regardless of the reason(s) for it — was a clear break from the more reserved and even stiff public persona that Perry has projected in the race to date.

That, in and of itself, is somewhat newsworthy. Was this Perry trying out a new approach as he seeks to re-energize his candidacy? Is this actually Perry’s private persona? Or was this not strategic at all?

That the episode hasn’t drawn more attention speaks to the blotting-out-the-sun effect of the questions surrounding allegations of sexual harassment swirling around the presidential campaign of businessman Herman Cain.

But watch the speech for yourself. We’re interested to know your read on what Perry was up to. Offer your thoughts in the comments section.

 
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