National reporters think the campaign for the Republican nomination is only beginning.
In Texas, some think it's already over.
Paul Burka of Texas Monthly summed up the general consensus in Austin last month, saying Gov. Rick Perry "is going to be the Republican nominee. ... We might as well skip the primary and go straight to the general election."
Burka draws a straight path for Perry through Iowa and South Carolina to Super Tuesday and a Southern sweep.
Nothing in the debate Wednesday changed that, with buttoned-down Mitt Romney carefully answering questions while Perry dropped every name from Ponzi to Galileo and brought more bombast to the stage than anyone this side of Toby Keith.
I asked political science professors in both Texas and Massachusetts.
Obviously, they said, the campaign isn't over. But both agreed the calendar favors Perry.
"Perry has a pretty formidable advantage," said Adam Schiffer of Texas Christian University.
If anything, he said, Romney's performance solidified establishment voters who once nominated candidates such as George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole and John McCain.
But today's Tea Party voters want somebody to lead a rebellion.
That was an invitation-only debate crowd that cheered Perry's 234 executions.
Top rivals Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Ron Paul of Texas were shoved off center stage by MSNBC, making their task even tougher against Perry in conservative Iowa on Feb. 6 or South Carolina on Feb. 28.
"It was clearly set up as Romney vs. Perry with everybody else out in the chorus," Schiffer said.
With Bachmann fading, he said, "Perry will do really well early. The calendar helps him greatly."
At Tufts University in suburban Boston, professor Jeffrey Berry said Romney's campaigners are "street fighters."
"Romney has money, and he'll do whatever it takes," he said. "Social Security will be the issue now."
But with Iowa and South Carolina up early, he said, "a betting man would bet on the governor of Texas in those states."
Nobody can stop Perry but Perry.