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GOP presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and Rick Perry may be seeking a chance to oppose President Barack Obama in the 2012 election but first they must find a way to defeat each other, so they spent most of Thursday night’s debate in Orlando, Florida going after each other.
In a setting where style often supplants substance, Romney appeared more presidential and Perry once again spent most of the evening on the defensive and showing flashes of anger when pressured over his own words and actions.
The Texas governor blew a foreign policy question, missed opportunities to score points against Romney on conservatives lapses and played fast and loose with the facts on several occasions.
Perry often seemed unprepared, off-balance and uncomfortable. He evaded a question on how he — as president — might handle a cal at 3 a.m. saying the Taliban had seized control of nuclear weapons from Pakistan. Instead he offered a canned answer about “building relationships” and talked about India, leaving the clear impression that he did not have the slightest idea how to deal with a crisis.
“Rick Perry may be the cream of the crop in Texas but he’s already in over his head on the national level,” one veteran GOP operative tells Capitol Hill Blue.
A group of Republican voters polled by Capitol Hill Blue say Romney clearly won the debate.
“Perry looked like a deer caught in the headlights,” said Colleen Reddings of Louisville, KY. “He did not look like a man who could handle being President.
“We already have too much inexperience in the White House,” said Paul Rawlings of Racine, WI. “Rick Perry didn’t impress me.”
While other GOP candidates shared the stage Thursday night, the focus was on frontrunners Romney and Perry. Most debate watchers doubt Perry will remain in the top two much longer.