After a series of poor debate performances in the early months of his presidential campaign, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is backing off the upcoming GOP debate schedule, committing to just one of the next three events between now and Nov. 15.
Perry has struggled in the five debates he has attended since he joined the race in mid-August. At one, he fumbled an attempt to cast rival Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper. At another, bickering between Romney and Perry drew criticism that the candidates were acting juvenile.
Perry hinted at his frustration with the debates earlier this week when he told Fox News that participating in them was a “mistake.”
“These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates,” Perry said. “…All they’re interested in is stirring it up between the candidates.”
Perry knows the debate format is not his best venue. He recently made light of his shaky performances in a speech to the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition.
“We are not called to be perfect,” Perry said when he addressed the gathering of social conservatives last weekend. “If any of you have watched my debate performances over the last three or four times, you know I am not perfect.”
Perry campaign manager Ray Sullivan said Wednesday night that the debates keep candidates from interacting more effectively with voters.
“When you’ve got eight or nine candidates and 30 seconds to a minute, it takes valuable time away from campaigning in Iowa as those elections approach,” Sullivan said in an interview with CNN. “…There are, I think, 18 more in the planning phases. There’s no way that the candidates can do all those debates.”
Sullivan said the Perry campaign was “examining the opportunities and the opportunity cost” of each debate. Perry has committed to just one future debate – a CNBC debate in Michigan on Nov. 9.