What next for Perry?
Well, that was easy. Two weeks after announcing he'd seek the Republican presidential nomination, and just as the country is starting to pay attention, national and key state polls show Gov. Rick Perry has vaulted to the top of the GOP field.I do not think the debates will be contentious this early in the race. Everyone is still aiming at Obama and Perry is already pretty good at that. Questioners may try to put him on the defensive, but he can handle that too. The fund raising and the organization is where he is still playing catch up. He is definitely working at it, but he will have to put in some overtime in the coming weeks to get his team in place and fund his effort.
"He timed it just dead-on perfectly," said Dave Peterson, a political science professor at Iowa State University. "Every time a candidate comes out, the media narrative is, 'What does he or she bring to the race, and why are they running?' And it's always positive."
Now, Perry must show that he can withstand the scrutiny that comes with being the front-runner.
September will test him. Perry has accepted debate invitations in Iowa and Florida, and he will take part in a Labor Day forum hosted by U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint in South Carolina. Perry's opponents are likely to swing at him more in those debates than they have so far.
"It's not uncommon that newcomers are left alone," said Craig Stevens, a Republican consultant in Washington who worked on Romney's 2008 campaign and George W. Bush's in 2000. "Once he gets to a debate and has to line up against some of his competitors, I think people will start to challenge him on his record."
Perry's front-runner status will also bring greater media scrutiny. National reporters have already begun writing about taxpayer-funded grants given to companies with ties to Perry contributors — the kinds of stories Texas newspapers have long reported. Such coverage will continue, as will other long looks at Perry's Texas record.
In addition, each statement Perry makes in front of a camera will be subject to days of scrutiny, as he found when he suggested that it would be potentially treasonous for the Federal Reserve to purchase U.S. Treasury bonds to put more money into the economy.
"There will be greater scrutiny of the types of things he says," Stevens said. "He'll always have a larger contingent of press and bigger crowds as the front-runner."
Perry also has to build an organization and raise money to fund it, which is where his focus has been since he returned from his announcement tour a week ago.