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CNN Republican Presidential Debate – For Perry What Happens in Vegas Can’t Stay in Vegas

Tonight’s CNN Republican presidential debate will be moderated by liberal host Anderson Cooper. With a liberal like Anderson Cooper running the show, tonight’s debate is about theater and ratings for CNN, not a discussion of conservative policy. Texas Governor Rick Perry will be lucky indeed if he gets a question Tea Party and conservative voters actually care about, and avoids having to explain why his energy policy kills polar bears or why his economic policies will cause other global ills dear to Cooper and the hearts of liberals everywhere.

The big question for Perry is whether former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will use tonight’s debate to go after him and try to put him away once and for all.

With Romney stuck – forever it seems – at 25 percent, Perry’s fundraising prowess and proven political team make him a lot more formidable than his debate performances might lead one to believe. Despite the deflation of the initial Perry wave, the Texas Governor remains the strongest “not-Romney candidate,” so the incentive for Romney to attack him remains strong.

The good news for Perry is that the co-host of the debate is the Western Republican Leadership Conference, and a certain amount of “Sage Brush Rebellion” Western-centric flavor might find its way into the questions from the audience.

With that in mind, it is fair to say that some discussion of energy, especially oil and gas development will take place. This should be Texas Governor Rick Perry’s strong suit, and his strategy of releasing an energy plan shortly before the debate could be vindicated if he can shake-off the jitters that have dogged his past debate performances.

If Perry can coherently explain his energy plan and come across as composed and competent in this familiar subject matter, it will be a good re-introduction to GOP primary voters and the first small step toward rebuilding his campaign.

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