These doubts were on display during the roundtable on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Perry really did throw up all over himself in the debate, at a time when he needed to raise his game. He did worse, it seems to me, than in previous debates. … Perry is one-half a step away from almost total collapse as a candidate,” said Fox News commentator Brit Hume.
Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol wrote an editorial titled “Yikes” on Friday, writing of Thursday’s debate, “[N]one of the candidates really seemed up to the moment, either politically or substantively. In the midst of a crisis, we’re getting politics as usual — and a somewhat subpar version of politics as usual at that.”
The alternative, he wrote, is for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to jump into the race.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Kristol said his editorial reflected what many Republicans are thinking, as evinced in Saturday’s straw poll in Florida, where Herman Cain won with 37 percent of the vote. The results were considered especially embarrassing for Perry, who came in second, since former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney did not officially compete. (He ended up coming in third.)
But Kristol said it was a repudiation of both the frontrunners.
“Seventy percent of the Republicans — having seeing with their own eyes Romney and Perry up on the stage Thursday night, and then speaking to the crowd on Friday and mixing and mingling having receptions for them … 70 percent voted against the two front runners. It was a vote of no confidence in Perry, I think, because of his really poor debate performance, but also Mitt Romney, who spent a lot of time in Florida over the last five years. To get 14 percent is not very strong. … These are very weak frontrunners,” he said.
A.B. Stoddard, a columnist for The Hill added the straw poll results were “a real slap toward Perry and Mitt Romney.” Fox News commentator Juan Williams criticized the field for having a “very limited conversation” appealing to the Tea Party and the far right, by opposing “$3 in cuts for $1 in a tax hike” and criticizing Perry for allowing undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at Texas colleges and universities.
Indeed, Hume then added that beyond debate performances, both Perry and Romney are now going to have trouble connecting with the GOP base because they have struck moderate positions on some issues.
Kristol said Perry’s position on immigration is defensible, but the problem was that “he didn’t defend it” during the debate. Kristol also criticized Romney’s 59-point economic plan was not “up to the moment.”
“I would just like to see some of these guys try,” concluded Kristol, again making a push for Christie to jump in.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” however, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) — a man whom many Republicans had hoped would be a presidential candidate — urged his party to give Perry a chance.
“It’s way too early to know, or to issue, to pronounce last rites over one performance,” Daniels said. “There’s still many of these [debates] — too many maybe. … I’d cut him some slack and give him a little time.”