Last night’s GOP debate may be a turning point in the 2012 Republican presidential selection process.

In front of a huge Fox News Channel and Foxnews.com audience – which is basically the GOP primary voter universe – Rick Perry had a golden opportunity to solidify his front-runner position.

But, instead, Perry fumbled the ball and came un-prepared, lazy and lackadaisical – while his main rival, one-time-front-runner Mitt Romney, has gotten his game in order and won this debate going away.

Perry had no jobs plan – even though he and his staff knew it would be the first question asked!

All night, Perry looked befuddled and repeatedly stumbled on his pre-cooked lines. His attacks on Romney fell flat – while Romney exploited the debate rule where, if your name was mentioned, you automatically got a 30-second rebuttal. So Romney cleverly did not mention Perry as he attacked him – and simultaneously explained his own suddenly-conservative positions.

The most dynamic moment of the debate came when former Senator Rick Santorum hit Perry on his policy of giving a cheaper tuition rate to illegal alien kids than to American kids. Whew! That is not popular among Republicans! And Perry sank like a stone from that point on.

The latest Rasmussen Reports poll of likely GOP primary voters – taken before last night’s debate -- finds that Perry’s one-time eleven-point lead over Mitt Romney has almost disappeared. He now leads Romney 28 to 24 percent. The fact that his lead is dissipating may very well mean that Perry's momentum, like that of other out-of-nowhere candidates, i.e. Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann, is also beginning to deteriorate.

Last night’s performance will only accelerate Perry’s decline.

Fox News contributor and former U.S. Rep. John LeBoutillier co-hosts "Campaign Confidential" with Democratic strategists Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen. Watch the show Mondays at 2 p.m. ET on Foxnews.com Live.

Former New York Republican Congressman John LeBoutillier is a Fox News contributor. He appears along with pollstersand  fellow contributors Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell on "Political Insiders" which can be see Sunday afternoons on Fox News Channel.