Those readers old enough to remember may recall that in his first debate with Democrat Walter Mondale in October 1984 President Reagan appeared sluggish and tired. Mondale used that perception to raise the question of Reagan's age. It wasn't until the second debate that Reagan turned things around by quipping that "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience" [video].
Reagan had been over-prepared for the first debate. His head stuffed with facts and figures to the point where the real substance of the man was masked. It took Nancy Reagan to step in and cut Reagan loose from the handlers. The cry went up "let Reagan be Reagan!"
Let Rick be Rick!
If Texas Governor Rick Perry is serious about holding onto his prime position in the GOP presidential nominating contest for 2012 his wife needs to step in a tell his handlers to "let Rick be Rick."
In Perry's first debate performance at the Reagan Library in California he did quite well. But in the last two debates his performance suffered. He cannot afford to have another such night.
Perry had a perfect opportunity to go after Romney on the issue of being a flip flopper and a fair weather conservative. He blew it as this clip shows:
Perry also made a huge mistake by appearing to be defensive on the issue of state tuition rates for illegal aliens in Texas. He could have batted the matter away by saying it was a state's rights issue and one that was the prerogative of the Texas legislature but he choose to suggest instead that people who disagreed were heartless. Not a wise choice of words to describe potential GOP voters who see things differently.
Like Reagan in 1984, Perry is said to have been "tired" on the day of the debate. He appeared to be over-prepared with what were supposed to be catchy phrases that bombed when he mis-delivered. In doing so, he made his chief opponent Romney look better by comparison.
At the Florida CPAC meeting on Friday Perry fired back:
"As conservatives we know that values and vision matter. It’s not who is the slickest candidate or the smoothest debater that we need to elect. We need to elect the candidate with the best record and the best vision for this country.It's fine for Perry to make those points in speeches, which he delivers very well, but debates DO matter. Imagine the field day the "news" media would have if Perry went up against Obama with a performance like the one last Thursday? Even though Obama is no star without a TelePrompter and king of the "uhs" in extemporaneous remarks the media will pounce on Perry's weak points and ignore Obama's.
"The model for socialized medicine has already been tried and it failed, not just in Western Europe but in Massachusetts ... what’s happening in Massachusetts gives us a window into this country’s future... "If RomneyCare cost Massachusetts 18,000 jobs, just think what it will do to the rest of this country."
Thursday's debate was was the most watched of all the debates to date. 6.1 million viewers had a chance to see Perry at his best and instead saw him at his worst.
It would be a great disappointment to those seeking a conservative "anti-Romney" candidate to find out Rick Perry was the Fred Thompson of 2012!
UPDATE: Perry finishes disappointing second in Florida Straw Poll:
Cain 37% Perry 15% Romney 14% Santorum 11% Paul 10% Bachmannn -- last place... A story in the LA Times describes how hard the Perry team worked to pull off a win at the Florida event. Every campaign can expect some ups and downs and Perry's is no different. But in the end, it's not the free breakfast or photo with the candidate that counts. It's the seamless match between message and messenger at every step along the campaign trail!