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WASHINGTON — The news that Rick Perry has stopped paying all of his campaign staff following Thursday’s debate is a sure sign of major troubles — and could be the leading edge of the collapse of his campaign.

If this is the end — and Perry’s super PAC support could well keep him on life support for a bit longer — it would be a remarkable bit of timing: Perry entered the 2012 presidential race as its front-runner on Aug. 13, 2011, almost four years to the day when it’s become clear that his second bid for the presidency has faltered badly.

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For Perry, that four-year period speaks to just how important timing — and performing — are on the presidential level. And how fickle the public can be.

At this time in 2011, Perry was the talk of the political world. He had yet to enter the race but polling suggested he was widely regarded by voters as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney that they had been shopping for.

Less than three months later, it was effectively over, thanks to a series of poor debate performances capped off by ‘‘oops.’’

Perry’s decision to run again — after such a disastrous first campaign — made very little political sense.

He raised barely over $1 million during the first six months of 2015 although super PACs supporting him did bring in $17 million. Perry’s poll numbers have never even come close to the heights he enjoyed in 2012.

Washington Post