Was Rick Perry suffering back pain during last night’s debate?

Rick Perry seemed a bit off his game during last night's Republican presidential debate in Florida. Was he was suffering from back pain?

That's what Texas Monthly's Paul Burka, a journalist who has watched Perry more closely than anybody, thinks.

"He looked uncomfortable, his face was strained, his combativeness was muted," Burka writes. "He looked to me like a man with back pain. I wondered if he were wearing a brace. I've had back surgery, and it hurt to watch him."

As The Ticket previously reported, Perry underwent spinal surgery in early July to correct what aides described as a recurring back ailment. The procedure included the infusion of Perry's own stem cells—an experimental therapy that hasn't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Perry has downplayed the surgery—describing it on Twitter as his "little procedure." But observers have remarked on how quickly Perry seemed to get back to business after the spinal procedure, which often can require months of recuperation. In Texas and on the campaign trail, Perry has been spotted wearing orthopedic shoes instead of his regular cowboy boots—a fashion choice he appears to have made during last night's debate, as well.

"He just wasn't presidential," Burka writes of Perry's performance at Monday night's debate. "He was low-energy and the feistiness wasn't there. That's why I'm wondering whether the back operation didn't go well." He adds, "I think the reason was that he was hurting."

Burka correctly notes that if Perry's back injury is acting up amid the grueling demands of the campaign trail, it could be as big a threat to his candidacy as Mitt Romney.

A spokesman for Perry didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from The Ticket.