Santorum, in turn, had the best night of his campaign. For months he has been a nonexistent presence — a favorite of a handful of social conservatives, nothing more. Now, by engaging with Perry, he has a little momentum. For Perry, that’s a distraction — and Romney loved every minute.
But this televised battle will not define the race. Romney may be coasting, but if Perry finds his groove, look for him to be formidable in coming debates. His performance in Orlando left many Republicans underwhelmed, but he can chalk it up to a lack of experience. Romney has been running for the White House for the past five years. Perry has been in the game for weeks. There is time for him to sharpen his strategy.