Romney is acting as though what’s imperative is to keep Perry from getting up off the floor. I wouldn’t be surprised if Romney decided to use the crony capitalism line of attack on Perry at the economic debate next week, since it allows him to zing Perry and Obama in the same breath and position himself as a little bit of a populist.
Expectations are now so low for Perry that an objectively mediocre debate performance next week will help him. But it won’t help him enough. If he crushes Romney, on the other hand, it’s a real race again.
If Bachmann wants to maximize her share of the primary vote, then I think the obvious play is to run as the evangelical identity-politics candidate: to tell evangelical voters they should support her because she is one of them. For an effective example of how to campaign this way, she should take a look at Mike Huckabee’s speech to the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit in 2007, which effectively launched his candidacy. And she should do it soon, since this year’s summit is this weekend. I don’t believe this strategy can get a candidate the nomination, but it can yield some primary wins, which she may consider preferable to fading away completely.