After ducking every debate he possibly could over his years as a candidate for public office, Rick Perry faces his opponents in the Presidential contest tonight. The conventional wisdom is that Perry will not fare well.
Conventional wisdom is, unfortunately, probably inaccurate.
First, there will be too many candidates on stage for any one of them to have much time at the mic. Even the debate-averse Perry will have something gaffe-free to say for himself during the limited time he has.
Second, given Perry’s frontrunner status, if the tone of the debate turns sharp, most believe it will be Perry the other candidates aim at. While that may to some extent be true, it is just as likely that Perry will be the candidate who comes out swinging. He’s always at his best when he’s critical of others, and his advisors have surely recommended that the best defense is a great offense. I would look for Perry to quickly elbow Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachmann, and perhaps Ron Paul, since those are the three who are his most likely serious opponents or who have shown the early propensity to elbow him. He’ll want to teach them that criticizing Perry comes at a cost.
And third, even if the other candidates turn their attentions to Perry, so what? If they’d shown any talent for grabbing the Republican-voting public’s attention in the first place, Perry would have been less likely to join the race. They are, quite frankly, not very good at it. Their best attempts to lay a hand on Perry will most likely fall flat.
Unless his Republican opponents dig deep into Perry’s “Texas jobs and economy” narrative and widen the cracks in that armor (and boy howdy, there are cracks wide enough to drive a truck through), Perry is likely to be seen as “holding his own” just fine in the debate, which for a frontrunner is a win.
I apologize that there’s not a single punchline in this post. But at least you have the headline going for you. Don’t read it out loud to your mother.