Texas Gov. Rick Perry is suddenly vulnerable with the conservative voters he must corral to win the Republican presidential nomination.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, has his eye on more mainstream Republicans, and he continues methodically to gain their respect with his emphasis on fixing the broken economy.
Those were the key impressions from Monday’s debate at Tampa’s Florida State Fairgrounds. The eight major GOP candidates will debate again next week in Orlando. Perry and Romney remain 1-2 in most national polls.
While each still faces difficult paths to the GOP nomination, Perry’s now looks a little more bumpy.
“Perry was a little rattled,” said Susan MacManus, a professor of government at the University of South Florida. The governor endured sharp challenges Monday about his views on Social Security, immigration, executive power, cronyism and other topics that conservative activists care deeply about.