Rick Perry had the most to prove - and up to a point, he did - but the walkaway winner of the early presidential debate was Carly Fiorina.
Former Texas Gov. Perry was centerstage in Cleveland in the GOP-sanctioned Fox News debate of the seven candidates who did not make the cut of the top 10 for the prime time debate.
Perry, who was ranked 11th in the polls Fox used to determine the line-up, stood at the center podium and fielded questions on frontrunner Donald Trump, the Iran nuclear deal, immigration and inspiring Americans.
Perry has been one of the fiercest critics of Trump, a billionaire, for being divisive.
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“I've had my issues with Donald Trump. I talked about Donald Trump from the standpoint of being an individual who was using his celebrity rather than his conservatism,” said Perry.
But it was former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Fiorina who scored when asked about Trump. “I didn't get a phone call from Bill Clinton before I jumped in the race. Did any of you get a phone call from Bill Clinton? I didn't,” she said, in a jab at confirmed reports that Trump and the former Democratic president spoke before Trump announced.
She then deftly explained Trump’s unexpected success thus far: “I think he's tapped into an anger that people feel. They're sick of politics as usual.”
Perry made a case for securing the border and for his job-creating record in Texas. “And nobody, nobody on either one of these stages has done more than I've done and the people of the state of Texas to deal with securing that border,” said Perry.
Perry blasted the Iran deal, but so did the other candidates - Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, S.C. Sen. Lindsey Graham, former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Pa. Sen. Rick Santorum and former Va. Gov. Jim Gilmore.
And Fiorina gave a smooth response for the need for leadership in the Middle East - and casually mentioned that she knew all the players.
Perry quipped that he’d need a large container of Wite-Out to undo President Obama’s executive orders. When asked to give a two-word assessment of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, he said: “good at e-mail.”
In the gaffe department, Perry seemed to say “Ronald Raven” instead of “Reagan” and in his closing remarks referred to his eight years as governor when he served 14 years.
“Our best days are in front of us. . .We can put America back on track on a growth level and a growth rate that we've never seen in the history of this country. . . It just needs a corporate executive type at the top that's done it before, and I will suggest to you nobody's done it like Rick Perry has done it over the last eight years.”