The major discussion after Wednesday night's debate is Rick Perry, who had one of those embarrassing moments that happen to most public speakers from time to time. Of course, most of us who make public speeches are not running for president, nor talking to a nationwide audience, nor do we have our embarrassing moments memorialized on YouTube and passed around the web at lightning speed.
Those observers who opine that Perry's campaign is essentially over need to keep in mind that before Wednesday's debate, Perry's campaign was already looking like it was over. The issue here is more one of the degree to which his lapse at the debate will lower the probability that he will rebound.
Perry's Positive Intensity Score in Gallup tracking has dropped from a high of 25 in late-August/early-September to 3 in this week's report. That ties him with Michele Bachmann, as the second lowest of any of the eight candidates we are tracking, above only Jon Huntsman (who is at -3). Perry gets 11% of Republican support vote in our latest trial heat measure, sandwiched between Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul -- and substantially behind Mitt Romney and Herman Cain.
Newt Gingrich Rebounding
I'm not sure if you noticed this remarkable graph in my colleague Jeff Jone's analysis published Tuesday, but here it is:
This is a true tale of redemption. Former Speaker of the House Gingrich appeared to be totally out of the GOP race this summer. He had problems with his staff, a news media's focus on his taking a cruise when some thought he should be campaigning, criticisms of the apparent highly-involved role of his wife in his campaign, and stories about large charge accounts at Tiffany's. His Positive Intensity Score, as you can see above, fell into the deep basement.
Then came the series of Republican debates, a venue which, apparently -- at least based on the correlational evidence -- turned out to be very rewarding for Gingrich, who is a Ph.D. in history and book author. Those debates, plus perhaps his other campaign efforts and appearances, seem to have made a difference. Suddenly Gingrich's fortune turned around, and his image among Republicans began inching up. Now, Gingrich is in clear second place among Republicans in terms of the positive intensity he engenders, behind only the slumping Herman Cain, but clearly ahead of Mitt Romney, who generates relatively little intensity.
It's not clear yet that this is translating into actual voter intentions. Gingrich is essentially tied with the formerly highly-evaluated Gov. Rick Perry of Texas in our trial heat polls -- well behind both Romney and Cain. My recent analysis shows that even if Cain drops out of the race for the GOP nomination, Gingrich will probably still be significantly behind Romney in GOP voter support.
There is also a boom-bust cycle of sorts that goes on in these types of campaigns. Gingrich lost ground when he entered the race and his behavior and past records came under heavy scrutiny. Then he was written off, received almost no scrutiny by the press, and appeared in the debates to be more affable, relaxed, and as befits a Ph.D., very well informed. If he suddenly begins to gain more attention as a possible challenger to Romney, as is already beginning to happen (see here and here), then he might stiffen up and regress -- and political journalists will once again begin to pour over his positions and statements We will monitor his progress going forward.