Texas Gov. Rick Perry does not have to star in tonight's Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Foundation in Simi Valley, Calif., according to several GOP strategists.
"All he has to do is hold his own," said one top political adviser. "He shouldn't try to stand out. People just need to see that he's normal and deserving of the front-runner status." Another insider who worked with Sen. John McCain in 2008 added, "if he tries to hit it out of the park and screws up it will be very bad. He needs to do what people expect of him, repeat what he's saying on the trail, and sound normal. Most people have never really heard him so this is sort of his coming out."
Perry is expected to be the target of Rep. Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney as they try to recover their first place rankings in the 2012 Republican presidential primary race. But associates say that Perry is being advised not to take their bait and simply be himself. "He has a Reagan quality about him in that he seems very confident, but not arrogant. It should work for him," said a third adviser.