The verdict on Rick Perry: He just wasn't ready, analysts say
The excitement about Rick Perry, with his red-state bona fides and potential as a bridge-builder between the tea party and the GOP establishment, faded as his lack of preparation became evident.
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“It matters if you’ve given your stump speech a thousand times so that you can remember the three Cabinet departments you’re going to close,” Mr. Sabato says, referring to the famous November debate in which Perry said he’d close Commerce and Education, but then admitted with an “oops” that he couldn’t remember the third one. Later he recalled it was the Department of Energy.
Perry gained attention for another unflattering moment when people speculated (and he denied) that alcohol or pain medication might have fueled his giddy speech at a gala in New Hampshire – which went viral on Youtube.
He tried for redemption by poking fun at himself on late-night television, but for many voters, it was apparently just too late.
“This office is one that requires real skill, and to run for it you’ve got to be prepared to be put through the meat grinder,” says John Geer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University.
Front-runner Mitt Romney gained tremendous experience through his 2008 campaign, Geer says, and Newt Gingrich, who’s been gaining on him in South Carolina in recent days, has done his share of time in the national spotlight.
But Perry’s success in Texas just didn’t translate, partly because he lacked the on-the-ground organization and fund-raising capacity he needed in the early voting states.
Perry may wish that debates hadn’t dominated the process so much. But when it comes to a vetting process that reveals the flaws of a candidate, “I think Republicans are happy to discover them before, rather than three months from now when he has the delegates,” says Zelizer.
The Perry campaign didn’t completely lack a sense of strategy, as his exit illustrates.
By supporting Gingrich as the anti-Romney candidate, “if Gingrich pulls off an upset [in South Carolina], all of a sudden [Perry] is standing tall and he will have his clout still in the Republican Party,” Zelizer says. “He can walk away from a tough few months bruised, but not totally defeated.”
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