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Perry faces a leadership test in real time

By Will Weissert

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 7 2011 1:11 a.m. MDT

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, right, examines a map of Bastrop County during a fire briefing by county officials in Bastrop, Texas, Monday, Sept. 5, 2011. A roaring wildfire raced unchecked Monday through rain-starved farm and ranchland in Texas, destroying nearly 500 homes during a rapid advance fanned in part by howling winds from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee.

Alberto MartÌnez, Pool, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — Rick Perry is facing a leadership test in real time.

The Texas governor left the presidential campaign trail this week to dash back home, where wildfires have devoured more than 1,000 homes in a week.

Perry ditched a high-profile campaign appearance in early-voting South Carolina to tend to his duties as governor. And his attendance at a debate Wednesday night — it would be his first on the national stage — is now in question.

The wildfires present Perry with an opportunity to set himself apart from his GOP presidential rivals by showing off his leadership and management skills. The risk is that Perry could look weak and ineffective if the fires continue to rage without interruption or if the state's response is perceived to be slow or subpar.

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