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On the Economy

Rick vs. Newt: The debate factor

Rick Perry's candidacy failed almost entirely on the weakness of his debate performances, while Newt Gingrich's  is thriving on the strength of his. One problem: a good debater doesn't necessarily make a good president.

By Jared BernsteinGuest blogger / January 20, 2012

Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry pauses while announcing he is suspending his campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012, in North Charleston, S.C. Perry's campaign floundered on the weakness of his debate performances.

David Goldman/AP

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I try to be careful not to get into the horse race aspects of things around here, but I thought Gov Perry’s rise and fall was notable in the following sense.

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Before joining the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as a senior fellow, Jared was chief economist to Vice President Joseph Biden and executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class. He is a contributor to MSNBC and CNBC and has written numerous books, including 'Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed?'

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It takes a lot to run an effective primary campaign these days, with money and organization and name recognition often at the top of the list.  But you also need to be a good debater.  Gov Perry wasn’t, and his high scores on those other assets failed to offset that by a Texas mile.

Newt, on the other hand, is a sharp debater.  And his lack of those other attributes, e.g., organization, has, at least for now, been largely offset by his debating prowess.

But here’s the thing: does being a good debater make you a good president?  I can’t see that it does.

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