If you're going by the opinions of the rightwing talking heads and pundits who fill up Fox News airspace, then Rick Perry had a terrible debate last night and the bloom definitely seems to be off the rose.
Maybe it's the drought.
Politico, the conservative news site that pretends it's objective, headlined its piece this way: "Texas Toast: Rick Perry Worries GOP."
Perry gave a foreign policy answer that offered no indication he's thought about how to respond to threats against America, twice bobbled attacks on Mitt Romney's well-documented departures from conservative orthodoxy, called immigration hard-liners heartless and, in what was otherwise his best answer of the evening, stretched the truth in the course of delivering a well-rehearsed line about why he mandated pre-teen girls to be vaccinated against HPV.
A more seasoned candidate would be better informed on national security policy, fluent to the point of knowing by heart his chief opponent's core vulnerabilities, and would never offend his party's base with such a pointed attack. And a more sure-footed one would have recognized that he couldn't get away with the claim that he issued an executive order on HPV after being "lobbied" by a cancer victim--because it has been publicly established that he met the victim only after he made the decision.
Just to pile on, they offered quotes from others baking their thesis:
"I think a lot of being president, of getting ready to be president, is understanding the complexity of the world that you have to deal in, and I think you either naturally have that countenance and that demeanor, or you don't," added Romney donor and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, adding that at such difficult moments, "I think you want to have the mental faculties, the experience and be able to surround yourself with good people and get the job done, and don't make too many mistakes."
But it wasn't just such august political sages as NFL owners who support Perry's opponent who weighed in negatively.
The Weekly Standard ran a special editorial criticizing all the current candidates but especially Perry: "THE WEEKLY STANDARD's official reaction to last night's Republican presidential debate: Yikes."
Editor Bill Kristol said, "But no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him."
Rich Lowry for the National Review:
Does Rick Perry prepare for the debates? He clearly does, he just can't quite carry it off. His signature moment of the night came when he teed up what was supposed to be a devastating indictment of Mitt Romney's flip-flops and get lost somewhere in the middle and barely made it out the other side.
Perry has been coming back to Earth lately, partly on his uneven debate performances. Orlando didn't do anything to change that dynamic-indeed may have accelerated it.
Erick Erickson of RedState also criticized almost all the field, but especially our Rick:
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Rick Perry was a train wreck in this debate. He flubbed his response on Romney flip-flopping. He got the first question tonight and stumbled. Good grief.
The Dallas Morning News' Wayne Slater offered one possible explanation for Perry's poor performance:
Among the critiques of Rick Perry's performance in last night's debate were two observations that raise an interesting question: Perry stood ramrod straight, stiffly at attention with his chest out. And, as he has in all three debates, he tends to flag after the first hour -- much like a marathoner who runs out of steam at mile 17. Somebody has to say it. Perry has been trussed up in brace because of his back surgery. (He's also worn rubber-sole shoes to relief the pain). That could explain standing so stiffly at attention. And might it say something about his flagging energy level?