Why Rick Perry Should Not Be Underestimated In a Debate in California

There has been plenty of chatter about whether Texas Gov. Rick Perry is intellectually capable enough and has a firm enough grasp of substantive issues to adequately perform in a presidential debate. Critics of Perry underestimate him at his peril, and California is actually the perfect place for Perry to make his debut on the national stage. Here are five reasons this debate format in California helps Perry and why doubts about whether he can adequately debate should be erased. 

1. California is perhaps the best location Perry can make his debut on the national stage. The contrast between California’s record of job creation and that of Texas the past decade cannot be more different. In fact, many are even referring to Texas as the new California. Because of California’s high taxation and overegulation, the once booming economic engine of America has seen companies leave the Golden State for places like Rick Perry’s Texas. In fact, California legislators even went to Texas on a “fact-finding” mission of sorts to learn from Texas’s business climate that has attracted companies to the state. Just being on stage in California is all Perry needs to do to remind people of the difference between California and Texas during Perry’s tenure as Texas’s governor the last decade.  

2. While some have questioned Perry’s intelligence and capability to perform adequately at debates, a debate in which there are eight candidates vying for a spotlight that is on them for minutes, at most, is the perfect format for a candidate like Perry who excels in retail politics and soundbites. As we saw with Mitt Romney during the last debates, Perry just needs to be standing at the end of the debate for him to win. In addition, this format (more akin to forums) doesn’t allow Perry to be attacked from the right for his signing the Texas version of the DREAM Act and explaining the executive order he signed in which he tried to get young girls to get the HPV vaccine that his critics assert was a way of rewarding his campaign contributors. 

3. Perry is a savvy and skillful politician who has has a history of thriving, much like George W. bush did, on being underestimated. He is a political street fighter and has uncanny political instincts and will more than be able to protect and defend himself from any attacks in this format.

4. Perry looks like an executive. Because he is dealing with the wildfires that are raging throughout Central Texas, Perry currently looks like a man in charge. California, a state that has also had plenty of catastrophic wildfires, is a fitting place for Perry to exhibit his executive and commanding persona, which may come across even more so in light of his management of the fires in Texas.

5. Because questions are being asked about Perry’s debating skills and depth of knowledge on substantive issues that the political elite care about, Perry wins by just showing up and speaking in complete sentences. The bar has been lowered for him already, so anything short of a catastrophic meltdown will be a win for Perry. 

6. Because NBC and POLITICO are conducting the debate, they may go overboard in trying to frame Perry as a right wing buffoon and clown. This will actually help Perry by riling up conservatives and his fans. One most only note that the mainstream media embraced former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman while ridiculing Perry during their rollout weeks. Coincidentally (or not), Perry leads in the polls. Huntsman is in last place. Republicans and conservatives do not like the mainstream media, and this debate offers Perry another perfect foil.