Perry Moment: The Governor Defends His Debating Skills

Following his awful, candidacy-destroying debate performances, which have depressed and appalled his supporters, Rick Perry says, don't judge on the failure of my smooth patter

After another rocky debate performance, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a candidate for the White House, said in a Friday speech that Republicans should not necessarily back "the smoothest debater" for president.

"As conservatives we know that values and vision matter. It’s not who is the slickest candidate or the smoothest debater that we need to elect. We need to elect the candidate with the best record and the best vision for this country," he said at a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Florida. "The current occupant of the White House can sure talk a good game, but he doesn’t deliver."

Legal Insurrection has the pithiest response. We don't want glib, but we do want minimal competence.

We don’t need the smoothest debater, but we do need someone with the minimum required debating smoothness.

Like it or not, in September and October 2012 there are going to be debates which will be watched by an enormous percentage of the electorate, and the mainstream media will be unforgiving of mistakes by the Republican nominee. A miserable performance, on par with the one Perry had Thursday night, would be a disaster.

By contrast, strong debate performances against Obama, holding Obama accountable in front of tens of millions of people, exposing his failures for what they are, could seal the deal. The mainstream media will not perform that task for us, so our nominee needs to do it. Perry has not shown so far that he is capable of that; it’s not smoothness, its preparation and execution.

The problem isn't that Perry is bad at public debate. It's that his responses have revealed more than he realizes. His mangled attempt at leveling a "flip-flopper" tag on Romney failed because Perry couldn't remember his lines, showing an utter failure at preparation. His response to the 3 AM question was incoherent, showing he has little to offer on foreign policy, and even less knowledge.

And, his "you have no heart" if you don't support in-state tuition for illegal aliens? It wasn't just the disdain he showed for his own supporters. There are good arguments to make in support of this policy (in-state illegals have to jump through the same hoops as out-of-state Americans, better to educate than to leave kids in ignorance), but Perry didn't make them. Instead, he lashed out. This tells me he either wasn't quick enough on his feet to remember the policy arguments, or that he wasn't aware of them in the first place and supported the law because he "has a heart." Neither of these speak well of Perry. They certainly aren't the hallmarks of someone who claims to be the conservative standard bearer.

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