An abrupt end to Perry’s debate trial balloon

Just four days ago, Rick Perry’s presidential campaign suggested the Texas governor might stop showing up for candidate debates. It’s an awkward calculation: if starts skipping the events, Perry looks cowardly and unprepared; it he participates, he looks clumsy, uninformed, and unprepared. Some at campaign HQ were apparently more inclined to avoid the latter.

But the pushback apparently proved too intense. Last night, the AP reported that Perry will be there for at least the next five scheduled debates.

Rick Perry plans to participate in at least five more presidential primary debates, his campaign said Saturday, dismissing speculation that the Texas governor’s lackluster performances so far would lead him to skip future Republican debates.

Perry, who has struggled through parts of his first five debates, will attend all of the events currently scheduled in November as well as a December debate, his spokesman, Ray Sullivan, told The Associated Press.

Well, if Perry wanted to lower expectations for his next debate performance, I suppose the strategy was a success.

On a related note, Ronval912 and johnny canuck raised an interesting point in comments the other day about Perry and the debates: what happens if the Texas governor wins the Republican nomination and is expected to go up against President Obama three times next fall?

Assuming for the sake of conversation that Perry gets the GOP nod — an unlikely, but not impossible, scenario — the governor couldn’t simply refuse to share a stage with the president. It’s why I think johnny canuck’s reaction was the right one: “I suspect his campaign would find it impossible to agree to the rules, any rules, and he would therefore regretfully decline.”

That sounds right to me. The campaigns always get together to negotiate the terms of the debates (pick formats, choose moderators, etc.). In the event of an Obama-Perry match-up, I imagine Perry’s team would come up with a series of bizarre demands — “The president must wear a beer-bong hat and refer to the governor at all times as ‘The Emperor'” — that Obama’s team would reject. Perry’s campaign would then blame the president and his staff for being unreasonable and argue that they have no choice but to decline.

Or maybe we’d get one debate out of them, ala season four of The West Wing.