Perry might not qualify for key SC debates

Rick Perry's campaign, struggling to make a comeback in South Carolina, encountered another potential problem on Wednesday when it became apparent the candidate might not qualify for at least one of the upcoming GOP presidential debates.

One debate, co-sponsored by CNN and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference for Jan. 19, is set in South Carolina, ahead of the state's primary vote on Jan. 21.

CNN's debate qualifications seem to rule Perry out: he does not meet the network's requirement for candidates to finish in the top four slots in Iowa or New Hampshire voting results. Perry came in fifth in Iowa and sixth in New Hampshire, where he did not campaign.

He has also fallen below the required 7 percent average in both national and South Carolina polling. His Real Clear Politics polling average nationally is about 6 percent and in Palmetto State polling he gets 5 percent.

Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan told National Review Online that Perry will be participating, and CNN told Talking Points Memo on Wednesday that the candidate would be invited to participate. They did not explain the discrepancy between Perry's plans and the published qualifications.

Perry's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Another South Carolina debate is set for Jan. 16, to be co-hosted by Fox News and the Republican Party of South Carolina. According to Fox News, the only requirements for participation in their debate is that the candidate meet Federal Election Commission and constitutional guidelines and garner an average of at least 1 percent in the five most recently available national telephone polls conducted by nationally-recognized organizations. Perry meets those requirements.

After his disappointing finish in Iowa, Perry pledged he "does not quit" and that he would continue on to South Carolina, where he has been traveling the state asking voters to give his record a second look.

Perry has never bounced back from several missteps in debates during the autumn.

"South Carolina is who picks presidents," Perry maintained at a campaign stop in that state, according to multiple reports.

Perry's failure to qualify would be an embarrassment for his campaign, as well as potentially a knock-out blow in what already looks to be an uphill battle for the candidate to regain attention in the race.

— This post was last updated at 4:59 p.m.