I think you can look at Perry’s performance yesterday as either a floor or a ceiling. It was his first time out and just about everybody was looking to take him down. Romney wants Perry’s more competence/electability-focused voters and Bachmann and the rest want Perry’s conservative authenticity-oriented voters. It doesn’t do Paul, Bachmann, and Santorum any good to attack Romney as not conservative enough at this point because the votes that Romney loses will tend to go to Perry. So Perry has a target on his chest. Perry choked on the global warming question (or rather what climate change-related-scientist and scientific interpretation of the data do you believe in) about as badly as he could have when it came to the words coming out of his mouth. But even as he was gagging, he still looked and sounded more poised than Rick Santorum did for most of the debate.
Perry showed some holes in his game, but also a lot of poise. He can go to school on Social Security and health care policy and come up with more prudent and detailed answers if he takes the time. The thing is Perry still hasn’t been hit on the eminent domain/crony capitalist thing in a debate and I would be interested in seeing how he takes those punches in debate and how he hits back.