There was some disagreement among the staffers at TPM tonight about who did well and who didn’t in tonight’s debate. I thought it was another weak performance by Perry. Yes, he got off a number of lines that got applause from this crowd. But he mainly did it by doubling down on toxic lines of rhetoric like his suggestion that the Fed Chair might be guilty of treason. His attempts to walk back his earlier comments about Social Security struck me as confused and strained. (See the back and forth with Mitt on Social Security.)I’m told Perry is an immensely gifted politician. And I don’t doubt that’s right. But my sense is that he’s basically a regional candidate. And trying to go national has him either making really jarring statements or else trying to walk back those jarring statements in ways that seem muddled and clumsy.
Romney and Bachmann may have come off a bit harsh or overbearing. But they ran circles around Perry. President Bush could toss off vague and almost meaningless comments that a lot of people somehow found to be satisfying answers. If I remember correctly, in 2000 he cited his dealings with Mexico as evidence of foreign policy experience.
But I don’t think Perry’s got the same touch. He just doesn’t look ready. Over time I suspect these iffy performances will hurt him even in the GOP primary electorate.