In the hours before the Republican debate in Tampa Monday night, political insiders asked just two questions. Would Rick Perry knock out Mitt Romney? Or would Mitt Romney knock out Rick Perry? As it turned out, the question they should have asked was, What if Romney and Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich got together to gang up on Perry? That's exactly what happened onstage at the Florida Fairgrounds, with the candidates hitting Perry hard on Social Security, his jobs record in Texas, his decision to mandate a vaccination for young girls, and immigration. When it was over, Perry had not been knocked out, but he was definitely wobbly on his feet. . . .This was only Perry's second presidential debate. He'll get better. Now that he understands that he's going to be everyone's target he'll also be ready to fight back more effectively. I don't know how many people could stand up to that assault for 2 hours and come out unscathed.
After blows from all around [on illegal immigration], Perry was reduced to saying, "The bottom line is that it doesn't matter what the sound of your last name is. That is the American way." It wasn't a popular line in the room.
By that point, Perry had become a candidate the voters did not see in last week's debate at the Reagan Library. He was at times hesitant, forced off his game by Romney, Bachmann, Paul, and Santorum, and perhaps in need of more preparation. It's likely he'll do a little more studying for the next debate, presented by Fox News, on September 22.
One wag put it rather nicely: Rick Perry has managed to turn his GOP opponents into Democrats.
True. They were using every argument I'd expect to hear from Democrats next Fall.