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Can Rick Perry bounce back in Vegas debate?

October 18, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
  • CNN's Sam Feist leads a tour of the stage before a Republican presidential debate sponsored by the network Tuesday in Las Vegas.
CNN's Sam Feist leads a tour of the stage before a Republican presidential… (Isaac Brekken / Associated…)

For all the focus on Herman Cain, it is Rick Perry who perhaps has more on the line tonight as the Republican presidential candidates gather again for a debate in Las Vegas.

Perry's political obituary was beginning to be written after a pair of poor debate showings in the last month. But a strong fundraising report -- $15 million cash on hand -- and a steadier performance at last week's economic-focused debate has kept him in the conversation, even if it's secondary to the man with the "9-9-9" plan.

Mitt Romney's campaign is still eyeing the Texas governor warily. They produced a Web video targeting what had been Perry's primary selling point in the GOP contest -- his record creating jobs in Texas.

Perry unveiled his plan to boost the national economy only late last week. A new video Tuesday from his campaign includes highlights of that speech, and a reference to him as "America's Jobs Governor."

Nevada is a state where a message tightly focused on job creation could take hold. The state unemployment rate was the highest nationally through August, at 13.4%. That's more than Iowa's (6.1%) and New Hampshire's (5.3%) combined.

The question for Perry is whether to continue to be aggressive against Mitt Romney, or whether to focus on Cain in an attempt to dislodge him from what had been his perch as the lead "anti-Romney." A CNN poll released Monday showed Perry dropped from 30% to 13% among Republican voters nationally, while Cain jumped from just 9% to 25%.

But a new Washington Post-ABC poll shows that perhaps Perry should tread carefully. As he has become better known among Republican voters, his unfavorable rating has spiked, from 7% to 26%; his net favorable rating among conservatives is 10 points lower than Cain's.

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