By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, who admits he is not the "slickest" debater, may not participate in all the remaining 2012 debates because there are so many.
Perry communications director Ray Sullivan said what many campaigns have been saying privately -- that the number of debates is taking away from actual campaigning and that there is no way to do all of them.
The Texas governor, perhaps more than other candidates, has ample reason to stay away from some debates, however.
He has struggled in four out of the five debates he has participated in so far, a contributing factor in his fall from the front-runner position.
A CBS/New York Times poll of Republican voters this week gave him only 6 percent support nationally, putting him in fifth place.
There have been eight debates already and at least 10 more are in the works as the 2012 calendar heads toward the start of actual voting in early January to decide the Republican presidential nominee. The next debate is planned for November 9 in Michigan.
"While well-intentioned, the sheer number of debates takes valuable time away from meeting with actual voters, especially those in the early states like Iowa and New Hampshire," Sullivan said.
"Additionally, having eight or nine candidate at these debate necessitates very tight time constraints and candidates grappling for soundbites. There seems to be a law of diminishing return for viewers and candidates alike as the number of GOP debates approach the double digit mark," he added.
While the decision may make sense from a tactical viewpoint, Perry could leave himself open to criticism of ducking a discussion of important issues unless other candidates join him in boycotting some debates.
SEEKING TO REBOUND
Perry has much ground to gain in his hopes to recapture the imagination of conservative voters, in particular in Iowa, where his conservative message would seem to resonate.
A CNN/Time/ORC poll published on Wednesday said former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had climbed into the lead in Iowa among Republicans, with businessman Herman Cain close behind. Perry was in fourth place.
Perry has added several Republican political veterans to his campaign team to try to help him rebound. He has amped up criticism of Romney, accusing him of flip-flopping on key issues, to try to keep Romney within striking distance.
He is to appear for his first Sunday television show interview when he gives an interview to Fox News Sunday this weekend.
This week, Perry released an economic proposal centered around letting Americans pay a flat 20 percent income tax rate and cutting business taxes as a way to kickstart economic growth.