The latest Rasmussen Reports poll of likely GOP primary voters shows Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s one-time 11-point lead over Mitt Romney has almost disappeared — before this week’s GOP debate on Fox.
Perry now leads Romney 28 to 24 percent. The fact that his lead is dissipating may very well mean that Perry, like other out-of-nowhere candidates, i.e., Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann, also is beginning to deteriorate — and that is happening just as the other eight presidential candidates (including new entry Gary Johnson, former New Mexico governor) prepare to unload on Perry.
This will be Perry’s third presidential debate, but his first on Fox. The other two — one on MSNBC and the other on CNN — had much smaller audiences than the Fox News Channel and Foxnews.com audience.
And, even more importantly, the Fox audience is in great part the GOP primary electorate. So, for the first time, Rick Perry will be seen by millions of caucus-going and primary-voting Republicans.
Knowing this, you can be assured that the other Republicans will bring their A games on Thursday. Each, for his or her own reason, wants to knock Perry off his front-runner pedestal. And they have all been studying the first two debates and have learned many things about the heretofore unknown Texas governor:
- He is a good debater when he can recite pre-cooked attack lines against his opponents — but he is hopelessly lost at sea when on the defensive.
- He cannot think on his feet — a skill that is required to do well in debates.
- He quickly gets that Dan Quayle, deer-in-the-headlights look.
- His positions on hot-button issues like illegal immigration are fertile ground for further attacks on Thursday night.
- Inside the GOP — and thus the Fox audience — Perry’s policy in Texas of giving free or cheaper tuition to illegal alien students is not popular. In fact, most Republicans and conservatives are way, way to the right of Perry on this.
- Look for Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Mitt Romney to be chopping away at Perry — as they all want Perry’s social conservative supporters to leave him — especially in Iowa.
- Bachmann, who is fading by the minute and is now in single digits nationally, still is trying to win the Iowa Caucuses by garnering the Huckabee voters from 2008. She had those voters all to herself until Perry entered the race. Thus her strategy Thursday must be to continue her relentless attacks on Perry for his un-social-conservative policies in Texas — the way she did last week on the Gardacil issue.
- Look for more ammo to come from Perry’s 2010 book, FED UP! You can bet that his opponents have by now mined this book — which Perry probably did not even read — and will surface other new nuggets, including his description of Social Security as a “disease.” Whew, that must make Team Obama salivate with hope that the GOP nominates Perry. Can you picture the TV ads in senior-heavy areas of Florida and Pennsylvania?
- Look for more attacks on Perry’s crony capitalism and pay-to-play method of governing in Austin. The tea party hates this dirty type of government — and Perry is vulnerable on it.
- Perry is also vulnerable on his secret ways of governing; it smacks of cover-ups to the tea party.
Conclusion: Perry is going to be under attack all night on Thursday. Any of the candidates who don’t hit Perry are trying for the veep slot on Perry’s ticket.
Look for some fireworks — and for some sound bites to emerge that will run for several days.
The GOP race may change — drastically — Thursday night.
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