Texas Governor Rick Perry hinted this week that he is considering skipping some of the numerous upcoming presidential debates. Perry cited scheduling and the need to spend more time directly talking to voters in the important states, however, some of his rivals have now jumped on his statement calling it evidence that Perry is showing signs of weakness.
Report from CBS News:
Two of his Republican rivals on Thursday criticized Rick Perry, who has dropped hints he may skip some of the upcoming presidential debates.
In a question-and answer-session with reporters following an education forum in New York City, former Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich both suggested it is a sign of weakness for Perry to take a pass on some future debates. At least 10 have been scheduled between now and the end of January.
“I’d never skip a debate. I’d never skip the opportunity to let the American public know what I think about these issues,” Santorum said.
“I’m all about digging deeper and people getting to know the candidates.”
Gingrich suggested that Perry’s reluctance raises questions about his fitness for the fall campaign. “I don’t see how somebody can say that they can’t debate Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul, but they’ll be ready to debate Barack Obama,” he said. “I think Governor Perry would find it an enormous mistake to not go to the debate and I think that frankly he’d look pretty silly.”
Both Santorum and Gingrich spent years in the nation’s premier debating society, the U.S. Congress, and the experience has stood them in good stead at the debates so far. Moreover, as back-of-the-pack candidates, both stand to benefit from the national exposure that they receive at the televised events.
I’ve been somewhat surprised that, so far, all candidates have decided to attend most every debate they were invited too. Compared to 2007, there will be 15 total debates in 2011 once all is said and done while 2007 saw just 11 GOP primary debates. Even 11 was a high number 4 years ago and I have been quite amazed at the sheer number of debates and variety of sponsors popping up to organize and produce them. Keep in mind I am not counting the ones that will occur in 2012, which so far is at least 5 primary debates confirmed right now and could be bumped up to 6. We could total over 20+ GOP primary debates in 2011-2012 before we even get into the general election cycle once a Republican nominee is chosen.
Perry spoke about his prospects in the debate scene, among other topics in the campaign, a couple days ago on The O’Reilly Factor. Here is Perry’s interview:
A Perry campaign spokesman said they will now take each debate on an individual basis and determine whether the Governor will participate based on a number of factors. One can’t help but assume that Perry’s falling poll numbers following the September debates have to be one strong reason for this decision.