Perry Passes Peak, Begins Decline in Polls

By Dmitriy Shapiro     Twitter: @dmitriyshapiro     [email protected]


Texas Governor Rick Perry, a star competitor for the Republican nomination, may have recently reached the summit of the favorable poll results he has been receiving, according to Real Clear Politics average.

Political commentators have been widely debating whether Perry’s extraordinary ascent to a significant lead against other GOP hopefuls would continue on its meteoric rise, or begin to decline from media overexposure; now it seems the latter is almost certain.

It is hard to make claims over such results yet. Unless Mitt Romney makes a significant campaign blunder, it is most likely that Perry’s poll numbers will begin to approach those of other candidates as time passes without any candidate dropping from the field.

It isn’t that Gov. Perry is a bad candidate, he is still and will be, the most prominent candidate whose views follow the traditional republican mindset, but his sliding numbers are most likely caused by not meeting the unrealistic expectations of being the perfect candidate, awaited by discontent and divided republican voters before Perry entered the race.

Perry’s performance thus far has been standard; coming off as natural and direct, but not faultless, as demonstrated by the controversy stirred up when he said that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke “would be treated pretty ugly” in Texas if he continued his inflationary policies. Statements like these may look bad to liberals and in the media, but it does nothing but strengthen his grassroots and Tea Party support.

Perry’s real struggle has been distinguishing himself in the televised debates, where primary voters first get a good glimpse of their slew of candidates. In the two debates that Perry has so far appeared – the MSNBC/Politico Reagan Library and CNN/Tea Party debates – he disappointingly did not come off as the legendary, Chuck Norris-like figure that so many have joked about and hoped for. Dreaming aside, Perry seems unable to find the sweet spot between long-winded political explanations and simplistic sound bites that are not catching on as well as those by his biggest Tea Party rival, Michele Bachmann.

The RCP Average line graph shows that Perry reached his peak on the 12th of September, polling a double digit lead over Mitt Romney.  Until then, his supporters hoped that he would perform better in that night’s CNN/Tea Party debate, but in the following days, it seems that some of Perry’s supporters have lost hope. As of now, the CBS News/New York TimesUSA Today/Gallup, and Rasmussen Reports polls span the interval following the last televised debate, but I would suspect that further poll announcements will show Perry’s lead over the rest of the field, especially Mitt Romney, shrink.

In the CNN/Tea Party debate, Bachmann, Romney and the rest of the field successfully pinned the “big government” Republican label on Perry, which he appeared unable to shake. Bachmann gained sympathy points saying that having “12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just wrong…” Bachmann and her campaign quickly capitalized and coined “Perrycare.” Other times, Perry’s unconventional stance on Latino immigration was criticized by all. In the eyes of primary voters, these are serious blemishes on what they hoped would be a perfect conservative record.

Thursday’s Fox New/Google debate will be crucial to the Perry campaign. It will be imperative for Perry to competently deflect all attacks to be expected from Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney to his left, and Michele Bachmann to his right. He needs to makes certain that the talking points he prepares are clever enough to grab the attention and approval of the primary electorate and media while keeping his renegade conservative image intact. But Perry should also aim for balance. There is a group of conservatives that had hoped for an alternative to Romney, but less socially conservative than Bachmann, this has initially boosted Perry’s numbers, although some seem to be going back to Romney; probably a result of the controversial pronouncement Perry has made on issues like climate change.

Perry campaign’s straddling of the divide between mainstream and Tea Party republicans and drying up funding for slightly more conservative candidates could bring some comfort soon, since it puts him in the best position to receive the supporters of Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Santorum if they run out of funds. Bachmann, being all but invisible in the MSNBC/Politico debate, makes me curious to know where she receives her campaign money from, and how long will it last? Where is Newt Gingrich in all of this? My guess is as good as yours.