(Reuters/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Texas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry had a bad week last week and it ended with many political pundits seriously questioning his ability to win the Republican party’s nomination. After a lackluster debate last Thursday and losing the Florida straw poll over the weekend, it is evident that Perry’s once smooth-sailing campaign is hitting quite a few bumps.
While Perry is still statistically the GOP frontrunner, numbers show his nomination is far from a shoe-in. A CNN/ORC International Poll released on Monday indicates that Perry leads former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 28 percent to 21 percent. The next closest candidate, Newt Gingrich, comes in third with 10 percent support, according to the poll which was conducted Sept. 23-25 with 1,010 adults surveyed. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent.
Two weeks ago Perry had a twelve-point lead over Romney. That lead has now fallen to seven percent.
The poll reveals more troubling news for the Texan: his numbers in the general election haven’t moved, according to the poll. Romney is still the stronger GOP candidate against President Obama. Perry trails Obama among all registered voters, 51 percent to 46 percent, exactly where he was the weekend he launched his campaign. That was the last time CNN had done a matchup between Perry and Obama. Romney’s numbers against Obama haven’t changed much since the last poll either; however, he trails Obama by just a single percentage point.
Perry’s troubles originate with his lackluster debate skills. In his three debate appearances since he entered the race in August, Perry has failed to impress. According to many political pundits, last Thursday’s debate may have been the worst. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin even went so far as to say that “any random high schooler at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in Washington could have done better than [Perry].”
Many on the political right are disappointed that Perry – a seasoned politician and the longest continuously serving current U.S. governor – cannot seem to adequately attack Romney on his weaknesses, which include flip-flopping on social issues. Instead, he seems to trip over his own words. Ann Coulter tweeted during the debate: “Governor Perry losing debate with his own tongue.”
Also adding to his woes, Perry lost the “Presidency 5” straw poll in Orlando, Fla., this past weekend to second tier candidate Herman Cain. Perry’s campaign had invested quite a bit of resources courting delegates and hosting events and Romney, his main opponent, did not compete in the Florida straw poll.
But Perry lost to Cain, 15 to 37 percent. Romney received 14 percent via write-ins.
Adam Smith of the St. Petersburg Times' explained this upset, tying it in with Perry’s mediocre debate performance:
"Throughout the Orange County Convention Center, formerly enthusiastic Perry supporters backed away, saying his debate performance left them uneasy about his ability to take on the president. While debates are dominated by talking points and rehearsed one-liners, they've also been drawing big ratings. And in Perry's case, Thursday's debate proved how they can make or break a campaign."
Many Republican voters who once saw Perry as the “savior” of the GOP race – a “true” conservative candidate to offset the Romney the "RINO" (Republican in Name Only) – are now hoping for someone else to jump in. Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, is being called upon by the conservative base to be that hero. Although he has repeatedly declined to run, new reports are speculating that he may reconsider.
If that happens, it will be more bad news for Perry.
Saturday Night Live got in on the action of mocking Perry and pushing for Christie to run. The show featured a mock Republican debate in which Perry was portrayed by Alec Baldwin as a drowsy, gaffe-prone, and incoherent candidate who “can’t speak for 10 seconds without alienating a part of his base.”
The skit ended with the moderator announcing, "As a reminder to Chris Christie, it's wide open, buddy."