Christie Endorsement Throws Debate Into Turmoil

Tuesday, 11 Oct 2011 09:00 PM

By Martin Gould

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Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney received a massive boost on Tuesday, getting the endorsement of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – one of the most influential figures in the party.

The huge fillip to Romney’s campaign came just hours before the former governor of Massachusetts was to take the stage in New Hampshire along with seven other candidates for a debate seen as critical to the future of his rivals.

Christie’s endorsement, due to be announced mid-afternoon, was bound to take center stage on the cable news shows in the run-up to the debate and take the focus off pizza magnate Herman Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the two candidates seen as having the best chance of overhauling Romney’s lead in the polls.

“This will throw the debate into turmoil,” independent pollster Matt Towery told Newsmax. “It will put Perry in a very bad position tonight because all the political pundits will want to talk about is Christie’s endorsement.”
Perry was relying on the debate to turn around his faltering campaign and has been working hard to put in a far better performance than he has in three previous debates. Unlike those events this one will focus on one issue, the economy, seen as Perry’s strongest point.

Editor’s Note: Who's your pick for 2012? Romney, Cain, Perry? Vote Here Now.

After weeks of speculation, Christie announced during an Oct. 4 news conference that he wouldn't run, ending any lingering hopes that he would enter the presidential race himself. By throwing his support to Romney, he has taken the wind out of sails of the Texas governor, who was already under pressure to put in a stellar performance, Towery said. “It will put him in even more of a tailspin.”

Perry knows that another mediocre performance could knock him out of the race for the White House and had been working hard to ensure he is better prepared for the debate at Ivy League Dartmouth College than he has been in the three debates in which he has so far participated.

New NBC-Marist polls issued on the morning of the debate show he has slipped to fourth place behind Romney, Cain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul in both New Hampshire and Iowa.

Perry huddled with advisers over the Columbus Day weekend to prep himself for the debate, even bringing in an experienced debater to play the role of an attack-minded Romney, according to the New York Times, which also reported that the strain of the campaign was starting to tell on Perry who was finding it hard to get enough sleep.

One unidentified friend described Perry as “a tired puppy,” while his own son, Griffin, stood in for him at a GOP Columbus Day dinner in Plymouth, N.H. Griffin told ABC News his father was “resting up.”

Towery said the debate is crucial for Perry. “I don’t believe it will decide the nomination, but it can decide who will be eliminated, and that could be Perry if he comes out looking desperate and making critical mistakes,” he said.

“The biggest mistake that Perry can make is to try to be too tough on Romney,” added Towery. “But that is exactly what I expect him to do. To beat Mitt Romney he has to use a less bombastic style. He has the opportunity to appear like Ronald Reagan, but I am afraid he will come out desperately swinging for the fences.”

Perry leap-frogged ahead of Romney within days of entering the face in August, but after what Towery called “three relatively miserable debates,” his poll numbers have slipped badly and allowed Cain to soar. The Times said he is fully aware that he has to improve if he is to put himself back into a position where he is seen as the most viable alternative to Romney.

Conservative activists in the party were particularly dismayed by Perry’s unwavering defense of a Texas law he signed giving reduced tuition fees at state schools to children of illegal immigrants at the last debate on Sept. 22.
He compounded his position by describing anyone who opposed that position as “not having a heart.” In an exclusive Newsmax interview he later said he regretted his “poor choice of words.”

Perry has also taken flak for describing social security as a “Ponzi scheme” and for not immediately repudiating comments made by the Rev. Robert Jeffress who introduced him at the weekend’s Voters Value Summit by saying that Romney, as a Mormon, is “part of a cult.”

“He has to put that issue behind him tonight,” said Towery. “If he doesn’t say that he totally disavows what Jeffress said, he will be in big trouble.”

Christie’s endorsement will also take some of the spotlight off Cain, who had the chance of focusing the debate on his 9-9-9 plan, which would reduce both income and corporate tax levels to 9 percent and introduce a national sales tax at the same level.

The full line-up of candidates in the debate is Romney, Cain, Paul, Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rich Santorum.

Editor’s Note: Who's your pick for 2012? Romney, Cain, Perry? Vote Here Now.



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