Unlike in past debates, Perry wasn't the center of attention last night.
When he did have the stage, he touted his experience at balancing budgets here in Texas during his 12-years in office.
Brandon Rottinghaus is an associate professor of political science at the University of Houston. He says Perry needs to nail down an economic policy quickly.
"Part of the problem is that the perception is that the other candidates have got these policies and they're ready to go where Rick Perry doesn't. He mentioned last night in the debate that he's working on the plan and he's going to roll it out over the next few days, but it would have been better, I think, to have that up front ready to go for the very debate where they're talking about these important issues."
Watch the 2012 GOP presidential candidates state their cases on jobs and the economy in the Washington Post-Bloomberg debate at Dartmouth College.(The Washington Post-Bloomberg)If the video does not render, visit The Washington Post Website.
Rottinghaus says unless Perry sharpens his focus, he's in danger of becoming an also-ran in the primary. Even with a large war chest, he says a candidate without a message that resonates usually doesn't last too long.
"There have been a lot of candidates over the years that have run who have had a lot of money and who haven't gotten anywhere simply because the message didn't resonate. Having all the money in the world will only get you as far as having a quality message can send."
Perry is expected to unveil is official economic policy on Friday, including a plan for more than a million new jobs in the energy industry.