The Fast Fix: Can Perry debate?

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Chris Cillizza
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Rick Perry's rapidly growing popularity with the GOP will make him the focus of Wednesday's presidential debate.

All eyes in Wednesday's Republican presidential debate will be on Rick Perry. It's the first time on the national debate stage for the Texas governor who has rapidly emerged as the frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination.

So, what should we expect from Perry?

There's not all that much to go on. Perry refused to debate his Democratic opponent in the 2010 Texas gubernatorial race and hasn't even been on a debate stage in 18 months.

Reviews of the debates in which he has appeared are mixed. Most people see him as a serviceable if not spectacular debater.

What we do know is that Perry has never been in a debate setting like this one. With the entire national press corps looking on, Perry will be poked and prodded -- both by the debate moderators and his opponents.

Given his lead in national polling, Perry doesn't need a home run debate performance. But, he also can't take a big swing and miss since that sort of stinker would step on the momentum he has built over the past three weeks.

Perry's likely strategy in the debate will be to play it relatively safe -- sticking to his talking points and not doing the sort of ad-libbing that can get a newly minted candidate into big trouble.

But, his opponents and the moderators will do everything they can to knock him off that script and force him out of his comfort zone.

It's going to be a very interesting night.


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