New Hampshire, the traditional site of the nation's first primary, is a make-or-break state for presidential hopefuls. All the Republicans hoping to eventually stand as the party's nominee at the 2012 convention try to make a strong showing in the state, but for Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), New Hampshire could be a fall from grace.
Perry entered the presidential race late in the game, only officially declaring his candidacy in August. First, he skyrocketed in the polls, quickly claiming frontrunner status over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Within a week, Perry had double-digit margins between himself and Romney.
However, new data from a Harvard/St. Anslem survey shows Perry polling at only 4 percent in New Hampshire. Romney, on the other hand, claims a 38 percent majority. Formerly on the top of the large heap of contenders for the nomination, Perry is now tied for fifth place with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in the political kingmaking state.
Perry has even been nudged out of the spotlight he has shared with Romney: at tomorrow night's debate, candidates will be seated according to polling numbers, meaning that Romney and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain will be seated side by side according to their ranks in the top two slots of poll results.
In the first three debates, the Texas governor was seen as performing poorly, so his campaign team has been reportedly hammering him in preparation for the coming make-or-break week, which includes two debates and a major foreign policy address.
An anonymous Republican source told the New York Times that the fatigue of campaigning may be affecting Perry's performance.
"We had a tired puppy," said the source of a talk he had with Perry. "He had been pushed really hard."
Chris Ingram, a Republican consultant who is not on Perry's campaign team, told the Miami Herald that Perry needed to focus to remind voters why they liked him in the first place.
"He's got to communicate his positions ... in a way that doesn't look like he just woke up this morning and had the idea," Ingram said. "He's got to quit worrying about the zingers on Mitt Romney and really focus on what the problem is, what Rick Perry's solution is, and how he's going to execute it."
Other political experts, like Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen, said that a few potholes on the long campaign road are inevitable.
"This is such a fluid race, he could be back in the front-runner seat a month from now," Jensen told the Herald.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) also told the Times that he had confidence that Perry would recover.
"His momentum has diminished, but there was an expectation for him that was built beyond reality," King said. "People still want to take a look and find out who the real Rick Perry is."