Rick Perry is making an all-out push to persuade voters that his weeks-long decline in the presidential polls is only temporary.
This week he beefed up his campaign staff with prominent new hires, is releasing a TV ad in Iowa, and on Tuesday will unveil a new tax plan that does away with the current rates in favor of a flat tax on most earners.
The question is, will it be enough?
When the Texas governor entered the race in August, he jumped to the front of the polls, leading the field for several weeks, until a series of lackluster debate performances and other missteps contributed to a precipitous decline. In the latest polling average, Governor Perry trails both Mitt Romney and Herman Cain by about 13 percentage points.
But with many pundits predicting that Mr. Cain is peaking – that his money will run out and his controversial "9-9-9" tax plan won't hold up to scrutiny – Perry is trying again to claim a coveted place in the GOP primary field: the most viable candidate who's name isn't Mitt Romney.
It's a position Mr. Romney seems to think Perry is gaining on as well.
In last week's GOP debate, the former Massachusetts governor all but ignored Cain, who was slightly ahead of him in polls, to focus instead on Perry. Last week, Romney started a website, CareerPolitician.com, that attacks Perry's job-creation claims.
If it's true that Perry has more long-term potential than Cain, then Perry needs to find a way to correct his plunge in popularity from the past few weeks and persuade voters that he has something to offer beyond being a Romney alternative.
Enter new faces and new ideas.
Perry's new hires – Curt Anderson, Nelson Warfield, and Tony Fabrizio – are veteran Republican strategists, and the trio worked together last year to help Florida Gov. Rick Scott to his unlikely victory. Given how crucial Florida may be to the nominating process (it was Florida's much-criticized leap-frog to a January primary that forced all the other early voting states to move even earlier), hiring the three men is a savvy move. It suggests Perry is both aware of some of his campaign's weaknesses and is making an effort to address them.
The Perry tax plan to be unveiled Tuesday, meanwhile, appears to be both an effort to distinguish himself from Romney as well as his answer to Cain's 9-9-9 plan – a bid to win the voters who liked the simplicity of Cain's suggestion, but with a proposal that he has promised will be "flatter and fairer" than Cain's plan.
Another thing that may help Perry in the immediate future: three weeks with no debates.