Rick Perry, who earlier this week called his participation in recent presidential debates a "mistake," plans to limit his participation in upcoming forums heading into the heat of the primary season.
The Texas governor and 2012 hopeful will participate in a CNBC debate scheduled for Nov. 9 in Michigan, but a top aide told CNN's John King his boss may not commit to many more face-offs after that.
"We're about 60 days away from votes being cast," Ray Sullivan, Perry's communications director, told CNN. "The candidates need to spend time in Iowa doing those town halls and spending a lot more time with the voters, who oftentimes have the best questions and press the candidates the hardest."
On Tuesday, Perry told Fox's Bill O'Reilly that the biggest mistake he's made so far in his campaign was agreeing to participate in debates at all.
"These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates. It's pretty hard to be able to sit and lay out your ideas and your concepts with a one-minute response," Perry said. "So, you know, if there was a mistake made, it was probably ever doing one of the [debates], when all they're interested in is stirring up between the candidates instead of really talking about the issues that are important to the American people."
Political observers have linked Perry's dramatic drop in the polls in recent weeks to his shaky debate appearances. The governor has openly admitted he's not a skilled debater, and his decision to back off participation in upcoming forums is a return to his political strategy in Texas, where he frequently declined to debate his gubernatorial opponents.
The question is whether Perry's move could backfire on a national stage. The six debates Perry has participated in thus far have received record ratings, and of the 11 debates scheduled between now and the end of January, most are taking place in key primary states, including Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.
But Sullivan told CNN there are just too many forums scheduled and it's preventing candidates, including his boss, from focusing on traditional campaigning.
'There's no way that the candidates can do all of those debates," Sullivan said. "But look, we're taking each of these as they come, examining the schedule and examining the opportunities and the opportunity costs."
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