Just two weeks ago, Texas Gov. Rick Perry appeared to be on an unstoppable path toward the Republican nomination for president. Today, he’s parrying charges of suborning racism in the Washington Post and vying with businessman Herman Cain for the media’s attention.
After entering the race in early August, Perry quickly climbed to over 30 per cent in national polls — topping longtime candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But his debate performances could at best be considered lackluster.
Choosing to engage his opponents — no matter how inconsequential — as they fired barrage after barrage of attacks, Perry elevated them instead of rising above them.
Yes, Perry has traded shots with Romney, but none of them have made a dent in Romney’s armour. The rest of the field has landed blows on Perry — and they’ve stung.
In that sense, Perry created Herman Cain — considered an afterthought following his May debate debut — but is now coming back with a vengeance to nip at Perry’s heels after he overshadowed Perry in the Google/Fox News debate in Florida.
Cain has proven that in the short-term he is someone who can out-populist the Texas governor, with equally folksy stories paired with a lifetime of business experience. Perry’s debate missteps created enough doubt to allow an opening for Cain to not just win the Florida straw poll, but blow Perry out of the water.
While Cain is unlikely to maintain his strength as the campaign season continues — he has a tiny campaign organisation in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire — the questions his candidacy raised about Perry seem set to endure.
Those doubts — on immigration, foreign policy, skeletons in his closet, and his ability to connect to independent voters — are the driving force behind the draft-Christie movement, which will be a major primary constituency even if the new Jersey governor sticks to the sidelines.
If Christie decides to run, Perry’s self-inflicted wounds will give life to an opponent that he won’t likely overcome. He’s done little to staunch the blood-flow thus far.
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