We admit it, we feel bad for former-Gov. Rick Perry.
The August 4 cutoff for the August 6 debates is fast approaching and it looks like the longest serving governor in Texas won't be on the debate stage. Even though Perry seemed to win every public battle with fellow presidential wanna-be Donald Trump, he appears to have lost the war.
Perry and Trump have been using each other to try and gain traction in the GOP presidential race for the past few weeks. For a brief shining moment in politics — a span of about two weeks is both an eon and half second in the political arena — it seemed like Perry's response to the ribbing from Trump was working.Trump would make fun of Perry and look like an idiot and then Perry would sally forth and shut that crap down in a manner that was downright, well, presidential.
Even we were impressed with how Perry was handling it, and it seemed obvious — which should have been the first clue — that Perry would ride the Trump-iness into a spot as a more serious presidential contender while Trump would burn hot and then burn out.
Sadly, for us, things aren't playing out that way. Right now the Washington Post is predicting that Perry will be out in the cold for the first Fox News debate scheduled for next Thursday while Trump has become a front-runner and already secured a prime debate spot for himself, based on polling.
Now, it's important to note, as On the Media pointed out in a recent story, that polls can be pretty meaningless in a crowded race due to the margin of error. Plus, we're so early in this particular political horse race that it's almost impossible to tell how things are going to spin out. But on the flip-side of things, it's a fair guess that those trailing outside of the top 10 polling GOP contenders probably won't get a spot on the Fox News debates, which means a loss of free TV time and exposure.
The shock in all of this is that somehow, even though Perry was acting remarkably coherent, presidential and, well, eerily reasonable about so many things, as we've previously reported, Trump is on the rise and Perry's presidential campaign is again looking like an endangered species. Trump has a guaranteed spot in the first debate and he's even managed to one-up Perry as a target for hair jokes. Even the Post has attributed this unexpected change in fortunes to a "conventional wisdom distortion field created by Trump's hair."
See, even though Perry's campaign has played well with some people, he hasn't been knocking it out of the park with the people he really needed to impress to ensure a spot in that first debate — GOP primary voters, also known as old white dudes. At the same time, Trump has gained 19 points with the hardcore Tea Party right and 16 points with the super conservatives, according to the Post. (Basically, Trump can look like an unqualified idiot on Twitter all he wants as long as he speaks the language of the far right, which he seems to speak fluently.)
So while Perry might have been playing well to the moderates and carving out a niche identity as a relatively reasonable GOP candidate, that's simply not the way to get any traction in the GOP race these days. Thus Perry has been squeezed out of the debate by Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
The thing is, now that Perry's campaign is swirling the drain, we actually feel bad for him. (Yeah, we were surprised, too.)
It's kind of depressing to watch, and with the debate qualifying deadline fast approaching, Perry seems to be sinking to Trump's level. (Some would argue this wasn't much of a drop, but it's still a disheartening to watch.) After a speech on Wall Street reform at the Yale Club in New York on Wednesday a reporter told Perry that Trump has been saying some "interesting things" about Perry. Perry had his campaign poker face on, as the reporter elaborated. You could almost see him telling himself to look presidential, not like the infamous "Oops" of Perry 2012.
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According to the reporter, the New York mogul with the strangest comb-over ever worn by someone running for president has said Perry doesn't belong on the debate stage and has questioned Perry's "energy, toughness and 'brainpower'". The reporter asked for a response and Perry glanced off for a second and then, with a barely perceptible eyeroll, responded: "Let's get a pull-up bar out there and let's see who can do the most pull-ups."
A grin slipped across his face as he made the pull-up comment. It was clearly an I-know-I-shouldn't-be-saying-this-but-why-the-hell-not-because-my-poll-numbers-suck look. His quip got a laugh from the audience. Of course, it also got Perry some headlines that make it sound like the swaggering tough guy from Texas is actually going to challenge Trump to a pull-up contest. (Side note: If such a thing does happen we'll be there with bells on to watch and we'll definitely cheer for Perry. Just saying.)
Of course, the race to score a debate spot isn't over yet. While Perry's I'm-more-presidential-than-Trump bit has apparently backfired, maybe the Texan-in-Chief act will help Perry scrounge up enough momentum to get him another spot in the debate. If that happens, fingers crossed Fox News does what everyone wants and sets up a pull-up bar right on stage.