Perry Has New Challenge In Florida GOP Debate

Tonight's Tea Party-sponsored presidential debate in Tampa will give us a much better idea of what the rest the primary season will look like. A local political analyst says the matchup will solidify the candidates' most important issues. It will also frame how those issues will be discussed. Governor Perry is expected to be much more on the defensive tonight, than he was in the last debate.

When Governor Perry faced his rivals at the Reagan Library last week, few of them pushed back against the governor's claims.  Specifically, how well he'd managed the state's economy, and that Social Security is a "Ponzi Scheme." 

UH Associate political science Professor Brandon Rottinghaus believes this evening, more candidates will jump on every opportunity to dissect the record, and rhetoric, of Governor Perry.

"But, that said, you're still going to see him espousing those particular believes — the role of government, and the nature of his success in Texas.  And, so, you're going to see much of the same, but he's going to be more on the defensive from the other candidates."

Rottinghaus says this matchup is really two debates in one.  First, it's a contest between Governor Perry and Rep. Michelle Bachmann on who's more conservative.

"Whoever wins that debate is going to be able to claim the mantle of the Tea Party and then secure those voters for the Republican primary, and, also, for the general election."

Rottinghaus says the other debate will be between more moderate candidates like Mitt Romney and John Huntsman, who may be looking beyond the notion of the Tea Party as a voting bloc.

"And just use this as a way to get exposure and to continue to try to press for more mainstream issues and challenge Obama on particular issues they think they can succeed on."

Perry has risen quickly in GOP polls, but Rottinghaus says the governor still has to convince Republican powers behind the scenes that he has what it takes to win a general election against President Obama.

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David Pitman

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