Rick Perry may skip some upcoming GOP presidential debates, sidestepping a campaign staple that hasn’t been kind to the Texas governor in his first two months on the national stage. It’s a decision that ultimately could cause other Republicans to bow out of the more than half-dozen face-offs scheduled between now and the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.
Perry does plan to participate in a Nov. 9 debate at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. — his sixth — but he hasn’t committed to any others beyond that as political advisers hunker down to determine how best to proceed. He’s juggling fundraising and retail campaigning with only two months before the first votes in the Republican nomination fight are cast.
“We haven’t said no, but we’re looking at each debate,” campaign spokesman Mark Miner said Thursday. “There are numerous — 15, 16, 17 — debates, and we’re taking a look at each one and we’re making the appropriate consideration.”
He said that “while debates are part of the process, they’re just one part.”
But Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, a former aide to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said Perry must play to his strength, not his weakness.
“During those debates, he looks like the Washington Generals while Mitt Romney is the Harlem Globetrotters scoring all around him,” O’Connell said. “A lot of people have written him off as a bad debater already, so you might as well make up ground like you have during 10 years as Texas governor, and that’s pressing the flesh, getting to know the people.”
In the debates so far, Perry has flubbed ready-made attack lines and rambled through answers. He’s looked unprepared, if not angry and confused at times. And, in one debate in which Perry’s advisers thought he had shown improvement, observers tagged him as a bully.
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