After last night’s debate, the conservative establishment might just be seceding from Rick Perry.
It was only six weeks ago that Perry declared his candidacy, and quickly shot to the top of the polls as the conservative, populist alternative to Mitt Romney. But since then he’s been knocked around for his statements against Social Security, and for his heresies from social-conservative orthodoxy on such issues as the HPV vaccine and in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants. And it has been the debates where he has been the main target of attacks from other candidates.
The Republican frontrunner didn’t do himself any favors at Thursday’s debate. The worst moment came when he attempted to deliver a knockout blow against Mitt Romney’s various changes of position — only to trip over all his words as he tried to keep track of them.
After that, Romney easily squashed Perry in a rebuttal.
The key moment begins just after the 1:25 mark below:
I think Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was it — was before he was before the social programs, from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against Roe v. Wade? He was for Race to the Top, he’s for Obamacare, and now he’s against it. I mean, we’ll wait until tomorrow and — and — and see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to tonight.
Since that fateful moment, conservative pundits have been openly dumping on Perry as a candidate — a mere month and a half after he entered the race and rocketed to the top of the polls.
Bill Kristol published an editorial at the Weekly Standard, stating the magazine’s official reaction to the debate: “Yikes.” Kristol negatively reviewed nearly all the candidates — pining for Chris Christie to save the GOP by entering the race. As for Perry’s performance, Kristol writes: “But no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him.”
Rich Lowry wrote on Fox News: “A few weeks ago, the question was how far and fast he would ascend; now, after his third debate, it’s how much he’ll drop.” he also wrote on National Review: “I really thought Perry would get better, but he hasn’t.”
RedState’s Erick Erickson wrote late Thursday night: “Rick Perry was a train wreck in this debate. He flubbed his response on Romney flip-flopping. He got the first question tonight and stumbled. Good grief.”
Michelle Malkin is especially shocked:
The cringe-worthiest moment, by a hair, was when Perry botched what should have been his most potent attack on Mitt Romney’s chronic flip-flopping. As I noted on Twitter when it happened, any random high schooler at the CPAC conference in Washington could have done better than this.
If this is how Perry’s going to take Obama on in debates, we’re in trouble. Someone inject him with some Red Bull and a dash of Herman Cain’s personality.
Dana Perino, the former Bush White House press secretary and current Fox News commentator, had this to say:
This was like a 3rd date with Perry - where you decide if you’ll go on a 4th…would you?
And Ann Coulter, in a rare moment of genuine wit and brevity, summed it up: “Governor Perry losing debate with his own tongue.”
Here’s a video roundup of TV pundits’ reactions to Perry’s showing: