Perry's debate performance costs him some support
By Alex Leary and Michael C. Bender
ORLANDO -- Diane Tropia came to P5 unsure who she liked for president. Last night's debate provided clarity.
"Yesterday definitely solidified my vision of Romney over Perry," said Tropia, a 46-year-old court reporter from Jacksonville. "I like Romney more as he goes on. He's very presidential."
A survey of delegates (we sought out people not wearing campaign stickers) turned up more than a few people who noted Perry's uneven debate performance and moderate stance on illegal immigration. They said they will vote for someone else in tomorrow's straw poll, or at least are reconsidering Perry.
A straw poll is, well, a straw poll. And Perry clearly has broad support here and in scientific polls. But the reaction underscores a growing weariness among some conservatives that Perry is not the strongest candidate to take on President Obama. "I hated him in that debate last night," said Rayma Murray, 78 of Vero Beach, who also said she's leaning toward Romney now.
"I came here ready to vote for Perry," said Ken Parrish, 72, of Gainesville. "I just felt like Romney came across more forceful than what I thought he was in the past. It changed my mind."
Rebecca Walker, a Fernandina Beach retiree, said she is still sticking with Perry for one reason: jobs. “It’s the biggest issue,” Walker said.
Walker acknowledged that she “wasn’t 100 percent happy” with Perry’s debate performance, but said the record of job creation in Texas was more important. “Texas is as big as two states put together, some of them,” Walker said. “If you can create jobs in a place that big, you must know what you’re doing.”
"I’m confused,” said Leonard Hall, 68, of Panama City. Hall, a retired teacher, left the Panhandle ready to cast a ballot for the Texas governor. But Hall said he’s not sure where Perry is on education while businessman Herman Cain has been “tremendously impressive.”
“I was kind of leaning toward Perry,” Hall said. “But I don’t know.”
Jim and Michele Tedrick, a Fort Lauderdale couple in their 60s, were both leaning toward Perry when they left South Florida. But his debate performance has them rethinking their votes in the straw pole.
“The debate last night just turned me off with that man,” Jim Tedrick said. “This back and forth of you-said-that, I-said-this - enough already. Just tell me what you’re going to do.”
Michele Tedrick said Perry’s not tough enough on immigration for her.
“That was disappointing,” she said. “Build a fence. Do whatever we need to do.”
Despite their trepidation about Perry, both are unsure of the man they’re most impressed with this weekend: businessman Herman Cain.
“Every time I hear what he has to say I’m more impressed,” Michele Tedrick said.
Both wondered with Cain is “electable.” For that reason, Jim Tedrick is thinking about supporting Newt Gingrich instead. “He’s the smartest guy and actually has a plan."