Perry scheduled to leave wildfires for GOP debate

September 6, 2011 4:57:44 PM PDT
At the moment, Rick Perry's camp confirms the governor still plans to participate in Wednesday night's GOP debate in California.

The governor's campaign just released his schedule showing two events in California after the debate. It appears he will leave the wildfires to appear Wednesday night in California and will continue on with planned fundraisers Thursday and Friday. It appears his brief break from campaigning hasn't hurt.

While his opponents made the most of the Labor Day holiday campaigning.

"We didn't raise taxes, Mr. President," said Mitt Romney at a campaign event.

Perry was forced home off the trail to deal with the devastating wildfires.

"Even with this tragedy, the good news is no lives were lost," Perry said.

The governor's decision to come home and skip long scheduled events in South Carolina is certainly nothing he wished for and the fires are horrible, but in purely political terms, coming home to oversee a firefight isn't a bad calculation.

"It is a chance for the governor to distinguish himself from his competitors," said KTRK Political Consultant Dr. Richard Murray. "If you come across as compassionate, in control and present it could be a significant plus."

It is likely a good image heading into Wednesday's high stakes debate. It will be Perry's first since getting into the race in mid-July and his frontrunner status is likely to make him a huge target.

"He's not notoriously a good debater. He's got to perform well, stay on message," said political analyst Court Koenning.

Perry hasn't debated in 18 months. In 2010, Perry debated his Republican primary opponents twice and seemed to allow them under his skin when they attacked his record.

"I don't know why you want to tear Texas down," Perry said in January 2010.

Perry never debated Bill White, his general election opponent. He can't avoid these GOP presidential debates or more challenges to his long record.

"This is a national stage. Many Republicans are interested in him, but want to know more about him. There is some opportunity, but there is real risk here," said Dr. Murray.

Perry will likely be prepared for pointed questions about his record and book, 'Fed Up,' in which he called Social Security a Ponzi scheme.

The other candidates have reason to take swipes at him. In an ABC News poll released Tuesday, Perry continues to lead all his challengers. He is tied with President Obama, but more Republican voters surveyed believe Perry has a better chance to beat Obama than anyone else in the race.

Reporter Ted Oberg will be in California for the GOP debate. Look for his live reports Wednesday on Eyewitness News.


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