Is Rick Perry another GOP presidential candidate fast-rising star who quickly flames out? First, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney came out of the gate as as Republican race front-runner, but then he went AWOL. Then, Michele Bachmann, the House Republican from Minnesota, won the Iowa Straw Poll, but that was on the same day that Texas Governor Rick Perry announced his candidacy.

After that, it has been all Perry, storming out as a front-runner in polls and stealing headline after headline with the media -- until last night's Tea Party Debate. We can all agree, Perry looked and sounded like a tired and agitated horse that has already run a long race. Perry didn't look presidential, and he was feisty, if not grumpy, and generally got a resounding thumbs-down from his performance.

Granted, Perry appeared withering and wounded on a night when others, including Romney, still struggled to grab the limelight and take it away amid his weakness, but to become president of the United States, one has to show they can rise above at this stage of the political game under most any circumstances.

Already, though, there are those suggesting Perry may have been suffering from physical discomfort during the debate -- attributing why he seemed tired, testy and generally delivered a poor performance. Writing on a blog in Texas Monthly, Paul Burka, who has studied Perry up close for decades, suggests, Perry was clearly off his game during the tea party debate.

He looked uncomfortable, his face was strained, his combativeness was muted. He looked to me like a man with back pain. I wondered if he were wearing a brace. I've had back surgery, and it hurt to watch him.

Anybody who has had back surgery understands the physical challenge of an ongoing, grueling pace like what a presidential campaign can inflict. Burka said he's had back surgery, and said it hurt to watch (Perry) in the debate.

But while the health issue may rightly yield honest empathy for Perry -- if his health is truly a major issue at this stage of the campaign -- one has to wonder if he's fit to become President of the United States.

Take President Barack Obama as one example of the wear-and-tear from the job. During presidential campaign several years ago, Obama was youthful, quick, and with a quick step beaming energy in every direction. After winning, and serving in office for two-and-a-half years he's slowed, aged and worn from the task.

Even the president's wife, Michele Obama, has made note of the issue. It's simply unavoidable, making one question if Perry's health will become a major issue.

If Perry says soon his health is fine, that his back is okay, then voters have another Rick Perry issue to confront from the performance. Even Burka writes: Another explanation could be that Perry has been around so long and has been so successful in politics that our expectations are high, and they are hard to meet. He just didn't seem presidential, and I think the reason was that he was hurting.

Ouch. If Perry merely struggled so badly in the Tea Party Debate because he's used to being on top, doesn't know how to deal with confrontation, and can't meet the rigid demands and expectations of a presidential campaign, then his rising-star candidacy took a big step back Monday night.

Whether it's a health issue or a mental issue, many voters will now be asking if Rick Perry is fit for the job.