Since the end of the debate last night Texas Gov. Rick Perry has taken a beating in the conservative and mainstream coverage as well as directly from Mitt Romney on his stance on Social Security. Finally, at about 5:00 p.m. Perry’s team sends out an email response. It’s a bit odd, however.

The main part of the defense is that Romney said critical things about Social Security in his book. However, Romney never said — and Perry therefore can’t find an instance — that Social Security should go back to the states or was a “failure.” He then picks up a quote from August in which Romney said no one was proposing to cut Social Security for those near or at retirement.” So? This of course doesn’t get to the point: What does Perry want to do with Social Security?

His spokesman is vague:

“Governor Perry believes that Social Security for current beneficiaries, and those nearing retirement, can and must be protected. Additionally, citizens of all ages, experts and elected officials must seriously discuss reforms to Social Security to make it financially sound and sustainable for the long haul. Americans want a leader to speak honestly about the financial challenges facing our nation. Traditional political rhetoric and tap-dancing don’t comfort Americans deeply concerned about the future of our nation.”

Actually, it’s pathetic. Does he stand by his book or not? Does he want to send Social Security back to the states or not? Is Social Security a failure or not? A poor political response is one that opens up more questions than it answers. And if the response is late, it’s that much worse.

That Perry still has no concrete position on any of this raises questions about his and staff’s readiness for primetime.

UPDATE (6:05 p.m.): Ramesh Ponnuru makes an important point: “That Perry campaign press release on Romney blurs the difference between two different issues. In Romney’s book he complains that Congress has been stealing from Social Security. He’s not saying that the program is itself a fraud. Romney has flip-flopped on plenty of issues but this isn’t one of them.”