The cliché: "The GOP front-runner is falling back to Earth," writes Mark Thiessen at The Washington Post, referring, of course, to Texas governor Rick Perry. Echoing him, Rich Lowry at National Review writes, "Perry has been coming back to Earth lately, partly on his uneven debate performances." Lowry's echo of Thiessen probably sounds extra familiar, and not just because a satellite is actually plummeting to Earth today. It got quite a lot of use after Perry's first GOP debate performance. "Another tentative performance in the next debate, on Monday night, could bring his campaign crashing back to Earth as fast as it launched into orbit," Glen Johnson at The Boston Globe (falsely) predicted after that first debate appearance. "But on Wednesday evening he could begin a slow descent back to earth," agreed The Daily Beat's Howard Kurtz after that debate as well.
Where's it from? Over the past decade, political journalists have increasingly abused the cliche of referring to declining poll numbers as "falling back to earth." Occasionally, though, a writer will leave out the "poll numbers" and simply declare a politician to be falling to earth. This has notably been the case in all of the Perry/debate references. The implication is, of course, that that a person had extremely high approval that is now falling at an accelerating rate.