Columnist, pollster, and InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery tells Newsmax that Wednesday’s spirited GOP presidential debate signals that the contest for the 2012 nomination is a two-person race -- at least for now.
Towery praised both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for turning in strong debate performances. But he gave Perry the edge because he weathered a barrage of tough questions and exceeded the expectations established in the media. He added that Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann performed well, but has cooled off since Perry entered the race and now looks like she may be vice presidential material.
“I think the first half of the debate framed this as a Perry-Romney race, with Bachmann being sort of at the vice presidential level,” said Towery. “I’m curious about [former Utah Gov. Jon] Huntsman because he did come on much stronger tonight, but the things he said aren’t in line with what Republicans in most instances are saying they want this year.”
Towery acknowledged that Democrats are salivating at the prospect of running against a candidate in Perry who is standing by his statement that states should be able to opt out of Social Security, which he called an “illegal Ponzi scheme” in his book “Fed Up!”
“I heard a candidate make those remarks before,” Towery said. “His name was Reagan in 1980. And the Democrats were salivating over running against Ronald Reagan. I thought Perry defended himself well… I thought Perry responded very well tonight. I was surprised.”
Towery predicted that Perry’s performance would help him continue to build momentum, and would persuade the deep-pocketed donors in the GOP to start writing checks to support his campaign.
Commentator and former George W. Bush staffer Bradley A. Blakeman agreed that Perry did well. But he thinks most powerful GOP donors will continue to watch from the sidelines to see what happens in the debates yet to come.
“I think that they’re going to hold their powder dry,” Blakeman told Newsmax. “It’s not as if Perry knocked the ball out of the park and it was decisive. I don’t think you saw that here.
“Certainly, Republicans were pleasantly surprised with his performance. Certainly, he held to the standard of a front-runner. He was statesmanlike, he was certainly assertive -- all things that people like to see.
“But we have some more debates coming up,” Blakeman said.
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