What Happened to Rick Perry?

At this point, political observers are almost unanimous in their assessment of last night’s Republican presidential debate: Mitt Romney won, and Rick Perry is not ready for prime time. It’s not just that he seemed tired and lethargic -- his answers to substantive questions on foreign and domestic policy were either weak or incoherent, and his attempted attacks on the former Massachusetts governor fell far short of their mark.

For Perry supporters and those convinced that the Texas governor would stand out from the crowd, the obvious question is: “What happened?” At Politico, Jonathan Martin and James Hohmann offer one answer: H was too late to the game. “It’s not quite time for his camp to panic,” Martin and Hohmann write, “but in his third debate in a month -- nearly as many as he’s done in the entire decade he’s served as Texas governor – Perry demonstrated why so few presidential candidates who parachute into the race mid-campaign win the nomination.”

Even for gifted politicians, running for president is a tough affair. Perry’s weakness, it seems, is his inexperience on the trail and in high stakes debates. A more seasoned campaigner -- like Romney, who has been officially running for president since 2006 – would have been prepared to counter his competitor’s jabs with well-placed attacks of his own. It’s why supporters of Chris Christie are kidding themselves if they think that the New Jersey governor could enter the race and succeed. Not only would Christie lack the time to build local support in crucial primary states like New Hampshire and Florida, but it takes more than a big personality to be successful on the national stage.

As it stands, Perry hasn’t quite shown that he’s prepared for the rigors of a presidential campaign, much less the frontrunner in a presidential primary. This doesn’t mean that Perry is doomed -- he’s still in a strong position to win the nomination – but it does add more doubt to Perry’s ability to win in a general election.

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