I started writing this as a response to a Facebook post but I realized it was just too long for that social media.
My FB ‘friend’ wrote about Gov. Rick Perry’s debate skills which even the governor knows are not working. The FB post noted President Barack Obama’s debate talents.
I thought about this a lot.
I am totally flummoxed by Perry’s failure to take advantage of opportunity.
As I watched the debate, I even wondered if Perry hadn't been "over-coached.' Here are a few missed opps:
- When the Texas tuition for illegals issue arose, Perry should have simply said he came into office (when Bush 43 won the presidency in 2000) and the act was basically a done deal (2001).
- Perry could have just pounded home the fact the bill was veto-proof. Out of roughly 181 legislators, 4 voted ‘nay’? Talk about a missed opp. All he had to do was say, Yeah, I could’ve vetoed it. And they’d have passed it anyway and I would have alienated a sizable percentage of the people I represent. So I signed it and I’m satisfied with that.
- Perry should have pointed out it’s been there now for a decade and there hasn’t been a big attempt to repeal it. Texans like it. It’s a states’ rights issue. Case closed.
Instead, he faulted to the premise that those who disagree “don’t have a heart.”
In Florida, I wrote negatively about the proposed DREAM act in our state. I based my opinion on hundreds of hours—maybe thousands—into immigration issues, tax issues, healthcare costs and education costs.
I seriously weighed the impact on Florida’s African-American students. I believed and still believe passing such an act would have disadvantaged that population.
Florida ended up simply letting colleges decide. Had I been a Texan, I never would have reconciled to anything less than a 5 year residency. If the child has been in the U.S. for less than 5 years, that is not an impossible issue to resolve if the child returns to his native country.
What was right for Texas was not right for Florida. Perry’s endorsement of the act as a states’ rights issue does not suggest he would pursue it as a federal issue.
There is ambition to urge the DREAM act at the federal level and I believe Democrats will continue to push this, with help from left of center Republicans. Therefore Perry would need to drive home the argument he would not change his position that this is an issue for the states.
Perry has experience with border issues, probably more than any other candidate, and he has pledged to secure the border. Americans have every right to expect the next president to do that. That is the only solution to the current problem we have with the migrant population who comes here for work, an education, healthcare or crime. Increasingly we are seeing people from hostile countries cross our southern border. That is a national security vulnerability even if the number is small.
At any rate, Perry appears to not understand the significance of debate. While Republicans don’t mandate a rock star debater for a nominee, we do expect the ability to pivot or pass, to declare or challenge and above all, to pound home a message as Herman Cain did. Why do you think Obama repeats key phrases ad nauseam? Because that is a means of persuasion particularly useful when you are dealing with uninformed voters.
Half the GOP and all media can tell you exactly who thought up 9-9-9 and who wants us to look at the Chi-lay-an model [that is the correct way to pronounce it, btw) for retirement options. Cain is also a gifted speaker who connects in the same manner I was arguably the first to ascribe to Perry—visceral.
Perry fumbled his opportunities in that debate. He ran right into the wall, however, when he said, “…you don’t have a heart.”
Perry must also admit something to himself and tackle that admission with the spirit his state is famous for. It is imperative that the GOP nominee be able to hold his own in a debate with President Obama. The national debates will draw interest from a wide variety of voters. The GOP will face a daunting, even vicious, Democrat machine in 2012.
The 2012 season is still in its infancy, and I doubt Perry’s core supporters will peel away.
However, GOP voters are taking two words from another candidate to heart—Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Don’t settle.
Republicans, unlike Democrats, vet their candidates. Legacy media will ruthlessly vet the GOP nominee although they gave our current president a pass.
Communications and debate skills are critical assets the GOP nominee must have. Both are skills that can be developed. The season is still young.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Sept. 25, 2011)