One of the obvious take-aways from the debate Monday night is how poorly Rick Perry does when attacked from the right. So long as he has a position that most conservatives support, he can just unload a crowd-pleasing sound bite and he’s fine. My favorite example from Monday night came when Perry was asked whether Obama should have to match tax cuts with spending cuts. Perry replied, “I would suggest to you that people are tired of spending money we don’t have on programs we don’t want.” The crowd applauded, the dogs barked, and caravan moved on. But this canned line wasn’t much of an answer to the question. It’s when Perry has to defend something conservatives are opposed to or divided on–his Gardasil proposal, his support for in-state tuition for illegals–that he runs into trouble. Then, the crowd-pleasing lines don’t please anyone, and his relative nuance doesn’t seem to match his big, tough-talking persona. Since he tends to be more about assertion rather than persuasion he has a hard time convincing anyone. We’ll see if he improves over the course of the debates.
by Rich Lowry