Rick Perry went on The O'Reilly Factor earlier this week and said that a mistake he's made as a presidential candidate was to attend some of the GOP debates. Now, his campaign is saying that Perry may skip some of the debates in the future.
For a candidate whose rapid drop in the polls some say is directly connected to poor performances on the debate stage, is this a good idea?
The vast majority of strategists and commentators seem to think not.
It's like skipping the third quarter of a football game, said Steve Schmidt, who managed the 2008 presidential campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain, to the Washington Post. It's not practical. Plus it's a stipulation he can't make an argument and is unprepared on the issues.
Still, there is the argument that the debates have been nothing but bad for Perry. He's gotten into tiffs with Mitt Romney, and he's been tripped up by Romney and Michelle Bachmann over his support for giving in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in Texas and for using an executive order to mandate giving the HPV vaccines to girls in Texas public schools. Both of those issues may have hurt him among the conservative Republican base he's hoping to win over--especially if he makes Romney, considered by many to be a moderate, look conservative in contrast.
Despite the possibility of looking bad in the debates, it seems likely that Perry's rivals will make him look bad even if he's sitting at home by simply questioning what the decision says about him.
I thought Texas Governors were supposed to be tough, said J. Hogan Gidley, an aide to Mr. Santorum, to The New York Times. How can Governor Perry expect anyone to trust he can take on Obama and the Democratic machine, when he thinks debating his fellow Republicans is too tough? This just shows he doesn't have what it takes to lead the American people in taking back our Country in 2012.
This isn't the first time Perry has decided not to debate, and it isn't the first time he's been mocked for it. During his 2010 reelection campaign, Perry said he wouldn't debate until his opponent released tax returns from the 1990's, the Atlantic reported. The backlash? Opponents launched an extended chicken campaign featuring videos, newspaper stories and protesters in chicken suits. Still, Perry won another term.
Can he win on the national stage if he chooses not to engage? One big problem is that primaries are partially about exposure and, The Washington Post notes, nothing will give Perry the kind of viewership that participating in a debate can.