Former governor Mitt Romney consolidated his front-runner status on Tuesday night in the Republican presidential race, overshadowing his rivals in the latest debate which was dominated by the country’s faltering economy.
His main rival, the Texas governor Rick Perry, needed a strong performance after seeing his poll ratings drop sharply, the result of doing badly in the previous two debates. But he again failed to deliver.
Republican strategists were scathing about Perry’s inability to mount a comeback, and his lack of fire. The veteran
Alex Castellanos said Perry’s team had complained that he had been tired in the last debate because he had had to stand for so long. This time, he had been sitting down, but was still lacklustre.
"Next time he is going to have to get a mattress,” Castellanos said on CNN of the Texas governor’s sleepy performance.
In a debate short on policy detail, Romney, emerged as the most fluent and most at ease , a much more relaxed campaigner than he was during his failed bid for the Republican nomination in 2008.
At best, Perry did himself no harm, avoiding any gaffes or exposing weaknesses for his rivals to exploit. “I’d be prepared to be a leader. You can’t get the country to go in the right direction and get Washington to work if you don’t have a president that’s a leader. And three years ago we selected a person who’d never had any leadership experience, never worked in the private sector...,” he said.
The only other of the eight candidates to make much of an impression was Cain, who has surged in the polls in recent weeks.