Texas Gov. Rick Perry had back surgery on July 1. Saturday night David Carney (Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s chief campaign strategist and long-time advisor) confirmed to me via email a report from a source who met with the governor before his made the formal decision to announce that Perry was in a back brace “on in [sic] off for a few weeks in July after his procedure.” He told me Perry had not worn the brace since his August 13 announcement. Carney denied that Perry is now experiencing any back pain or is on any medication. “He is not in any pain — why would he need pain medicine? No he is not taking pain medicine,” he emailed me. I asked if he was tired during the debates. He answered, “Not that I know of.”

While his physical health may be fine, Perry’s political condition is not. Perry lost to Hermann Cain in teh Florida straw poll by a margin of 37 to 15.43%, barely ahead of Mitt Romney (14 percent) who did not participate. This will only heighten interest in alternative candidates.

The search for an explanation for Perry’s dreadful debate performances is indicative of the degree to which he has lost the mystique of a front runner. Now the only question on Republicans’ minds is who will replace him.