SIMI VALLEY, Calif. ó Wednesday’s debate is supposed to be the moment front-runner Rick Perry finally stands toe-to-toe ó or at least podium-to-podium ó with the rest of the GOP presidential field.|By Wayne Slater, The Dallas Morning News
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. ó Wednesday’s debate is supposed to be the moment front-runner Rick Perry finally stands toe-to-toe ó or at least podium-to-podium ó with the rest of the GOP presidential field.
Team Perry has conducted mock debates in preparation and policy director Deirdre Delisi, briefing books in hand, has been quizzing Perry on all things foreign and domestic.
But he might not be there. Wildfires in Texas prompted him to skip a candidate forum Monday in South Carolina and return home. If he stays in Texas, he’ll miss his debate premiere at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library as well.
When John McCain abandoned the campaign trail in 2008 and rushed back to Washington to deal with a collapsing economy, it marred his bid for the White House. He looked political and erratic, not presidential.
Not so Perry. The fires are serious, and the governor is doing what governors do. Politically, Perry’s return to Texas, where he’s in charge at news conferences and photographed amid charred landscapes with firefighters at his side, is a good thing, even if he misses his first debate.
His opponents will have to temper their criticism, as they did in his absence in South Carolina. He won’t be on stage as a target for Mitt Romney, who suggests Perry’s a career politician, and Michele Bachmann, who questions his tea party credentials. He looks like a chief executive attending to urgent affairs of state, all while continuing to ride high in the polls.
One downside: Calling for federal help might seem a dissonant message for a candidate whose campaign is built on bashing Washington and extolling the virtues of self-sufficient states. But few will argue when people are fleeing their burning houses, pets and photo albums in tow.
Perry will have to face the field sometime, and late Tuesday, it appeared he would do so in California. He’ll arrive as a governor who, however briefly, rose above politics to help protect lives and property.
But if circumstances change and he has to stay in Texas ó no problem. At least not politically.