At the CNN-​​Tea Party Debate in Tampa, Mitt Romney gave one of the strongest per­for­mances of his polit­ical career in front of a crowd that did not seem to care. From the stand­point of audi­ence approval, with only a few excep­tions, this was Rick Perry’s night. Watching this man play to his nat­ural con­stituency, it becomes increas­ingly apparent that Romney has a serious problem on his hands: Romney may be the supe­rior can­di­date, but Perry’s appeal tran­scends reason. The Romney-​​Perry rivalry of 2012 is begin­ning to take on the feel of Clinton-​​Obama 2008 — and every­body remem­bers how that turned out.

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