Perhaps the most memorable moment for Perry came late, probably his worst answer, when he tried to argue that Mitt Romney’s policy changes were confusing, and seemed to get confused himself. To those who have followed Romney’s moderate-sounding 2002 gubernatorial campaign pledges to his conservative-wooing rhetoric in the 2008 race, this is an easy lay-up. I’m sure you can come up with a couple of Romney flip-flops off the top of your head right now. But for some reason, Perry seemed to lose track of his words and his whole answer came out tentative and rambling and unfocused.
And no, it wasn’t just me reacting that way.
“Rick Perry entered tonight’s Republican presidential debate with an opportunity to reverse the image of him as a poor speaker that had slowed the momentum of his campaign. Instead, he reinforced it,” concluded Jonathan Tobin at Commentary. “Perry may have started out strong but once again his energy and focus seemed to leave him in the second hour of the debate. He clearly flubbed a chance to nail Romney on health care as well as his other changes of position. Even worse for Perry, immigration emerged as an issue in which the Texas governor has taken a position that, however justified, allows his main rival Mitt Romney to outflank him on the right. That’s a potentially crippling blow to Perry since it could serve to distract conservatives from Romney’s sponsorship of the law that inspired Obamacare and the other flip-flops that have defined his political career.”
Ruth Anne Adams labels it, “Romney jujitsu.”
Dave Weigel summarized Perry’s comments as, “Mumble mumble uuuuuuh.”
“Perry is stumbling on his attack against Romney as a flip-flopper. This should be a piece of cake. Geez,” lamented Michelle Malkin.
“Perry seems like he’s running out of batteries. Literally. Yikes,” reacted Guy Benson.
“I think Perry almost fell asleep mid-sentence there. I know I did,” reacted AlexaShrugged.
“Oh, Rick. You need a Red Bull,” groaned Tabitha Hale.
Jeff Greenfield thought of a historical analogy: “I think Rick Perry was channeling Ted Kennedy with Roger Mudd from that1979 intvw: (“Senator, why do you want to be president?” uh . . . uh . . . uh)”
ABC News’ political director Amy Walter suggested, “If I’m Romney, next time I ask for a 3 hr. debate. Perry’s stamina wears off at around minute 42.”
Molly Ball, soon to leave Politico: “I’ve watched all of Perry’s debates from the last 10 years, and I’ve never seen him this wobbly.”
An interesting metaphor from the great Dana Perino: “This was like a 3rd date with Perry — where you decide if you’ll go on a 4th . . . would you?”
Perry’s performance left Tim Williams unnerved: “But to me the big story is that Rick Perry has been incredibly weak in every debate appearance. I think he’s done. I’d be shocked if he wins a single primary. Yet somehow, his weakness makes the entire field, which I once defended, seem even weaker than it did before Perry’s entry. And that worries me.”
“So I take it our love affair with Perry is over?” concludes Keder.