Like Jonathan, I think tomorrow night’s GOP debate presents Rick Perry with an opportunity to get back some of the ground he lost after the last debate. And while I would caution GOP candidates not to base their campaign strategies on week-to-week primary polling, in this case Perry should take a look at the latest Washington Post/Bloomberg poll.
On the question of who would best handle the economy, Mitt Romney leads with 22 percent, and Herman Cain follows on his heels at 20 percent. Perry is at 12 percent. Overall, Romney leads the pack at 24 percent, leading Cain by 8 points and Perry by 11. This suggests Perry may have missed his moment to hit Romney over health care and should concentrate more on refining his pitch on jobs and the economy. And while Romney now finds Cain gaining on him, the poll is exactly what the Romney camp wanted to see.
If this holds, it will signal a remarkable turn of events in Romney’s favor. As Jonathan said, the health care issue was supposed to make the idea of Romney’s nomination a nonstarter. Now, polls suggest his rivals should find another avenue of attack. And Romney certainly seems to be enjoying his debates over the economy with Cain; this is his comfort zone, and it enables Cain to look as though he has replaced–not joined–Perry in the top tier of candidates.
Again, this is only how it looks. I’m not convinced Perry has been shelved to such an extent, and I think he has a chance to recover. But Romney and Cain have released economic plans that have begun to drive the discussion–especially Cain’s “9-9-9” plan. As such, it’s doubtful an effective health care attack on Romney will be worth all that much to a GOP electorate already well-versed on Romney’s weaknesses but beginning to appreciate his strengths.