When Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the race for the Republican nomination he struck like a bolt of lightning, driving all of his competition off the front pages and seemed likely to drive them out of the race in short order. He sky-rocketed into the lead in every poll of Republican voters that was taken.
His announcement speech resonated with a Republican electorate desperate for a true, small-government, conservative to rescue the party and our nation from the mire of spiraling debt, over-reaching—do-gooder—legislators, and federal programs run by bureaucracies that seemed intent on controlling ever more aspects of citizen's lives.
His straight talk and uncompromising rhetoric, certain to upset establishment Republicans and offend the left and their propaganda organ—the MSM—was a breath of fresh air for conservatives. Amid the morass of mediocre, compromise at any cost, milquetoast solutions being offered by more moderate politicians, his enthusiasm for the 10th Amendment and his promise to "work every day to make sure that Washington DC is as inconsequential to [our] lives as possible." gave hope to many who had become disenchanted by the status quo and his 10-year record of accomplishment gave proof to his rhetoric and over-shadowed the records of his fellow conservative candidates.
Governor Perry seemed a candidate who was tailor-made to seize the reins of the Republican Party and steer it to a landslide victory in November 2012. For a short while, he looked likely to win the nomination by acclamation.
Isn't it interesting how rapidly things can change in politics? After three debates in the space of two short weeks, the bloom may be fading on Perry's rose.
My initial enthusiasm for Governor Perry would have had me jumping on board the "Perry for President" train, but prudence suggested that it was too early to endorse any candidate. That is the reason that, though I have been very supportive of Texas Governor Rick Perry and have defended him against the many scurrilous attacks on his record, I have not come out and endorsed his candidacy in the GOP primary.
With each debate, I (and many other conservatives) have been experiencing a growing discomfort with Governor Perry's performance. Florida's Thursday night debate was his third debate and with each appearance, he has gotten progressively worse as his opponents have improved.
Before the he entered the race, it was rumored that Perry was not a great debater and that he did not like debate preparation. If this is true—and all subsequent evidence points to it being so—then he had better get his act together.
For much of the electorate, the snippets of these debates that are played on nightly news programs will be all they see, their only opportunity to gain insight into the candidates character and ability and every stumble Governor Perry makes will be amplified by a hostile press. He cannot afford to continue trying to gut his way through without thorough preparation.
Governor Perry needs to learn to dance if his candidacy is to survive, but so far he has appeared to be disconcerted, petty, and out of his depths in responding to the tough questions and the attacks of his fellow candidates. He looks more like a student trying desperately to remember the lines he memorized that morning—eyes shifting back and forth, hesitating, and using convoluted grammar that renders his responses difficult to understand—than he does a knowledgeable candidate with a mastery of the issues put before him.
It is true that these debates are just TV shows, more of entertainment value than of value in selecting a candidate, or in demonstrating one's ability to govern and I have long thought that Republicans should never have allowed themselves to be snookered into holding debates. They tend to be nothing more than beauty contests.
Debates do, however provide us with a good indicator of how intellectually agile a candidate is. They are not a measure of a candidate's intelligence, but they are a measure of how well a candidate can put their intellect to use.
The ability to deal with a suddenly changing situation and to respond in a rational and measured way is a very important part of being President and so far all I've seen from Perry are generalized answers (as though his ideas are only half formulated), stumbling, off target, knee-jerk attacks, and semi-intelligible explanations of some of his more controversial stands.
It is that inability to clearly articulate why he believes as he does, and to respond to attacks—especially erroneous attacks like that of Rick Santorum on Texas border security last Thursday—with clear, concise facts that is killing him.
Perry said that he was "a solid 'C' student" at TAMU and his academic records clearly show that. So far, Perry's performance reflects that record. The primary difference between a "C" student and an "A" student isn't as much of a difference in their intelligence as it is a difference in their willingness to do the "grind work;" the boring daily homework assignments and study from which most knowledge is gained. If he is to win the nomination and the election, Governor Perry needs to break out of his "C" student mold and learn to learn.
Perry needs to demonstrate mastery of some of the issues and real facility in discussing all of them. That ability doesn't just manifest itself in people by osmosis, it requires real dedication to study and practice.
It's been two weeks since his first debate. By now he should have ready answers to the immigration issue, the border issue, the Social Security issue, the Gardasil issue, and the AGW issue, because all have been broached repeatedly since the first debate—and were prominently mentioned prior to his entry into the race.
Perry is not running for Governor of Texas now, he is on the national stage and the clever one-line zingers that we get routinely here in Texas don't play as well in other areas of the nation. He has to nationalize his campaign style without compromising his values and stance on the issues.
He may be able to pull it off, but he had better start soon.
There are a lot of us who have been strong supporter that are now having some doubts as to his dedication and ability. It is early yet, but the clock is ticking.
Governor Perry's next opportunity to redeem himself comes on October 11th (7 PM EDT) at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire and he better come out firing on all 8 cylinders, or he could be finished.
Long Live Our American Republic!!!