"I didn't see anything that would give voters a compelling reason to re-examine Perry," said Matthew Wilson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.
"There were no 'wow' moments. He's just not as polished or as smooth as Romney. Every time they're onstage, that works to Perry's detriment."
After Perry said he has an economic plan coming, "but I'm not going to lay it out for you tonight," he was drowned out in an echo chamber of talk about "9-9-9," Cain's tag line for his plan.
"The focus on Cain emphasized his role as the economic conservative," Wilson said. "That's the role Perry wanted."
Yet Perry remains the top challenger, said Richard Murray, professor of political policy at the University of Houston.
"He's the only candidate who has the funding," Murray said.
"Cain has no personal money and shows little ability to raise it. So as we move into the primaries, Perry will remain the only realistic alternative."
A further Perry fade would give Romney the nomination, Murray said. But more debates won't help.
"With Gov. Perry, you want to get him in the deep weeds and he kind of disappears," Murray said.
"Cain can say '9-9-9.' Romney is a good debater."
After the debate, ABC reports, the governor partied like it's 1599.
Texas Governor Rick Perry energetically bounded into the Beta Theta Pi fraternity on Dartmouth College’s campus after Tuesday night’s debate, but when he was asked a question about states’ rights, he slipped up on the dates for when the American Revolution was fought.
“Our Founding Fathers never meant for Washington, D.C. to be the fount of all wisdom. As a matter of fact they were very much afraid if that because they’d just had this experience with this far-away government that had centralized thought process and planning and what have you, and then it was actually the reason that we fought the revolution in the 16th century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown if you will,” Perry said.”
But Perry’s version of American history doesn’t match the history books, which show the American Revolution was fought in the 18th century.