Orlando (CNN) - Rick Perry may be a little saddle sore after the rough ride he had at Thursday's GOP presidential debate, but the real question is whether the front-runner in this horse race did more than just throw a shoe.
Republicans looking for reviews of Rick Perry's performance can go right to the search engine that sponsored the debate, Google.
Political Notebook: Listen as CNN's Candy Crowley joins Bob Costantini to contemplate if the GOP field is automatically being culled; plus, David Stockman sounds off on present-day economic policies and politics in Washington.
Bill Kristol wrote in the conservative Weekly Standard, "it was close to a disqualifying two hours for him."
Judson Phillips of Tea Party Nation wrote that Perry had "a really bad debate."
Alexandra Petri, a columnist for the Washington Post, tweeted the debate had rendered Rick Perry's campaign "shovel ready."
When Perry mistakenly claimed that Mitt Romney had once supported Pres. Barack Obama's health care law, the former Massachusetts governor barely bothered to respond.
"Nice try," Romney quipped.
Perhaps just as damaging was the Texas governor's defense of his past support for in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants. Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum both piled on.
"That kind of magnet draws people into this country," Romney said.
Santorum had even harsher words: "I would say that he is soft on illegal immigration."
Perry seemed to question their compassion, not traditionally the best way to win over the party's anti-illegal immigration activists.
"I think you don't have a heart," Perry said. "This was a state issue. Texans voted for it. And I still support it." His rebuttal was met with both cheers and boos from the large audience.
At a post-debate speech to Florida conservatives, Romney said immigration is a matter of the head and the heart.
"I think that if you are opposed to illegal immigration, it doesn't mean that you don't have a heart, it means that you have a heart and a brain," Romney said at a conservative action meeting in Orlando Friday.
Perry wasn't about to let that slide.
"As conservatives we know that values and visions matter," Perry said at the same event later in the day Friday. "It's not who is the slickest candidate or who is the smoothest debater that we need to elect. We need to elect the candidate with the best record and the best vision for our country."
Little more than a month after tossing his cowboy hat into the ring, Perry has quickly galloped to the head of the pack. Now, the Lone Star governor is finding out it could be a bumpy ride to the nomination. But analyst Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, takes a long view of Perry's political track record, noting that the candidate has never lost a race.
"It's very difficult to get into a race this late and then have four debates in basically five weeks," Reed said. "I wouldn't underestimate Rick Perry."
This is beginning to look contrived. Bring out the scary/stupid.crazy Texan and then give Romney a chance to score some teatard cred by attacking said scary/stupid/crazy Texan. This is all political theater designed to deliver the nomination to Romney. Since Bachmann couldn't stay on script, the GOBP's corporate overlords brought in Perry to fill Michele's little shoes.
Just like the Dowager of Dumb Bachmann, Marlboro Man Perry is finished. He better think of something quick; he had better start two steppin’ and slappin’ some leather campaign comeback-wise before the other noodle spine liars in the GOP field put him on an iceberg, give him some whale meat to ‘chaw on and push him back to Texas.
All these conservatives make a lot of happy, wishful talk about how solid their candidates are, how they'll beat Obama next fall, how they'll "put the country back on track" (conveniently forgetting that GWB's/Dick Cheney's term in office is pretty much how we got where we are in the first place), etc, etc. We'll see what happens when their conservative family squabbling ends, and they have to try to present their ideas and talking points ("job creators"? really?? Uhhh... not so much) to the general electorate. It'll be quite a different game then, Ralph Reed and cohorts notwithstanding. He and the rest of them can make all the ridiculous, false assertions they want, but they might as well be spitting into the wind. No way this con Repub lunacy will fly, come the election. Most Americans know better than to buy defective goods. Can't wait. You all are gonna be EXPOSED. Exposed, as in, representing only about 30-35% of the electorate with antiquated, out-of-touch, out-of-step views and ideas, not to mention, an unwillingness to compromise or work for the good of the nation as a whole. Americans, on balance, don't want to go in your direction. Everyone knows where Repubs lead. No one wants to go back there again. So, have your fun while you can. In 2012, it's all gonna end. Can't wait to see all your crestfallen faces on Election Night. It'll be as good as watching McCain/Palin's shameful defeat in '08. I can still vividly remember how you all looked that night – the "wait, this can't be happening to us, this is not possible!" bewildered looks on your faces. Get those uncomprehending facial expressions ready again, you'll need them next fall.
It will fun to watch when either Romney or Perry have to debate Obama. I really hope its Perry so everyone can see just how stupid he is. Yes, Obama has made mistakes, primarly not being forceful enough, and begging for compromise when Republicans had no intention of doing so...but if Obama can stick to the populism and stay with it, he should win again in November.
I think Romney should have T-Shirts made up with Perry's face on them, and underneath print "Nice Try". Also, Huntsman has the best answer: Last time, the two front runners wern't the front runners by the end of the race...