Texas Gov. Rick Perry "has been enduring a bad-to-terrible few weeks," says Steve Kornacki at Salon. His recent debate performances have been widely and brutally panned, he was crushed in a Florida straw poll he was expected to win, Republican activists and opinion-shapers are abandoning him for what they see as the safer pastures of Mitt Romney's campaign, and a new poll even has Romney beating Perry in socially conservative Iowa. How can Perry get his "struggling" campaign back on track? Here, four possible strategies:
1. Tack right on immigration
The biggest knock against Perry from the Right is that he's a "radical who encourages illegal immigration," says the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an editorial. That's "incendiary" nonsense. But "if Perry's team isn't alarmed... they're making a tragic mistake," says Matt Lewis at The Daily Caller. Illegal immigration is an emotionally and "politically toxic issue in a Republican primary." Perry needs to start talking tough on border security. Only then can he "eloquently defend what is at least an intellectually defensible position" on border fences and in-state college tuition for the children of illegal immigrants.
2. Vastly improve his debate preparations
Perry blew the last debate so badly that even his wife, Anita, is reassuring Iowa Republicans that "he's going to be better prepared next time," adding, "he's never had a debate class or a debate coach in his life." Well, it shows, says Eric Ostermeier at Smart Politics. Good debaters recount jokes, personal anecdotes, or policy points to fill their time slots — Perry defaults to clichés. In three debates, he's trotted out 33 well-worn political clichés, while the other candidates combined spouted only 19. Using so many verbal crutches makes Perry seem like he has "very little to say."
3. Hit Romney — hard
Publicly at least, the Perry camp is dismissing his rivals' sharp criticisms as "bed-wetting within the GOP political class," says Jonathan Martin at Politico. The only strategy shift Team Perry will admit to is one their "pugnacious" candidate has employed in the past: "Hit harder." That means redoubling attacks on Romney. That's what makes Perry different than previous flavor-of-the-month anti-Romneys like Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump, says NBC's Chuck Todd, quoted by The Daily Caller: Perry has "been through tough campaigns in the past," and he's always punched his way to victory.
4. Come up with an economic plan
If Perry wants to be "less of a piñata, and sound more like a president," says Jill Lawrence at The Daily Beast, he'll come up with more than "conservative boilerplate" for his plan to turn around the economy. Perry's team points out that he just entered the race six weeks ago, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. But if Perry wants to be a serious, enduring frontrunner, he'll have to quickly start giving "more detailed answers to policy questions," and quit merely pointing to his record in Texas.