A CNN poll out yesterday that showed Rick Perry maintaining his lead in the GOP primary hasn’t stopped the hand-wringing by many GOP elites about the Texas governor’s shaky debate performance. Nor has it helped to turn down the intense pressure many big Republican donors are putting on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to jump into the race.
So, what can Perry do to take the focus off his stumbling and back on his swagger?
1) Make It About Mitt: The Perry campaign can’t hope for Mitt Romney or his team to commit many unforced errors. Those folks in Boston are a very disciplined group. Instead, expect the Perry campaign to start a daily dose of attacks on Romney’s record. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce where these attacks will go. Romney’s biggest weakness is the perception that he’s an opportunist willing to change his mind and his positions as quickly as the political winds shift. I’d expect to see some examples of those policy shifts this week.
2) It’s The Economy Stupid: Perry’s greatest asset is his record of job creation in Texas. While that record is far from flawless, it’s the one thing he’s got that no one else has. But, Perry’s been talking about everything but jobs these days. Social Security. HPV vaccines. Illegal immigration. If he’s going to make this race about the economy and jobs, he needs to find a way to turn every issue into an economic one.
For example, Perry needs to make the case for why his decision to allow children of illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition isn’t just compassionate, but it makes good economic sense too.
3) Get Specific: Romney has a 59-point jobs plan. Cain’s has his “9-9-9″ plan for economic recovery. Perry needs to lay out something more than just rhetoric. He needs to explain to voters how success in Texas will be able to translate nationwide.
Of course, the most important thing Perry can do is put in a decent performance at the next scheduled debate on October 11. That and a solid fundraising report on October 15.
But, those are still a long way away. Until then, he’s got to at least make some traction on these three issues if he wants to try to get off his heels and back on offense.
Amy Walter is the political director of ABC News.