Thursday, November 10, 2011 , Updated 8:45 a.m., November 11, 2011
UPDATED: Video: Rick Perry stumbles badly in Michigan debate, goes on Letterman
Perry's presidential campaign could be done.
That’s the word Rick Perry uttered after a major stumble in the Republican presidential debate Wednesday. It spoke volumes about how bad his debate performances have been and how far he has sunk as a 2012 presidential contender.
Audible gasps could be heard in the press filing center when Perry could not remember all three federal departments that he would shut down if elected president. In a cringe-inducing moment, he tried three times and finally gave up.
“I would do away with the Education, Commerce and, let’s see,” the flailing Texas governor said. “I can’t. The third one I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
At one point, another candidate suggested the Environmental Protection Agency. Perry initially agreed but then said that wasn’t the right one.
It was perhaps the greatest embarrassment so far in a campaign that has been piling them up like cord wood. And while it’s easy to overestimate a single moment, this one felt different and potentially game-changing.
As in, possibly game-ending.
“To my memory, Perry’s forgetfulness is the most devastating moment of any modern primary debate,” said veteran University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato in a widely disseminated comment on Twitter.
“Wow. Just Wow,” read another Tweet from a viewer that scrolled on the bottom of TV screens on the CNBC news ticker.
The phrase “He’s done” could be heard echoing through the press room in Rochester Hills, Mich.
After the questioning moved on, Perry finally remembered what department it was — Energy — but it seemed like it was too late.
The damage was done.
Perry, clearly gauging the gravity of his flub, came into the spin room to talk to reporters.
"I stepped in it, man. Yeah, it was embarrassing, of course it was," Perry said.
He added: "I named two agencies, and [the Department of Energy] didn't come out. The bottom line is that while I may have forgotten energy, I haven't forgotten my conservative principles."
Even his competitors felt so sorry for him that they wouldn't pile on.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said, "There's nothing I could say that could darken the night Rick Perry had."
Perry campaign starts damage control after debate gaffe
Just how bad was it? Everyone on stage was laughing nervously. The audience didn't seem to know how to react. It was so bad that Gov. Perry himself headed to the spin room after the debate to talk to the press — something he's never done as governor or lieutenant governor.
“Yeah I stepped in it man. Yeah it was embarrassing — of course it was," Perry said when asked if it he was red-faced.
Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News
It was a quick effort at public damage control. But in private, it's clear his operatives are scrambling. Until last night, no matter how poor his debate performance or how lackluster he fared in the polls, Perry was a fundraising machine. His first fundraising report at the beginning of October showed he pulled in more money than any other GOP candidate and set up a solid cushion to cover television ads and campaign travel to the early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
But now, less than two months to go before Election Day in those states, the Perry campaign will be trying to determine whether last night's fumble will stanch the flow of money needed to make successful runs in those primaries. Lose in each of those three states, especially South Carolina, and there won't be any more money or momentum to continue a campaign.
Just seconds after Perry's lapse, one reporter asked whether he had just witnessed the Perry campaign die on stage. Based on the governor's post debate appearance, if that's the case, he’s ready to go down swinging.
“The bottom line is, I may have forgotten [the Department of Energy], but I haven’t forgotten my conservative principles," Perry said in a clear swipe at GOP front-runner and polished debater Mitt Romney.
Perry defends his debate gaffe on federal agency name
Gov. Perry is in damage control mode this morning, reminding supporters of gaffes by other candidates who became presidents after a painful stumble in last night's Republican primary debate.
This morning, he's telling supporters he's walking in the footsteps of the greats, reminding supporters of fumbles by candidates who went on to become presidents — Obama, Reagan and Ford — and calling the reaction to his gaffe "media froth."
Perry also appeared on the Today show this morning, telling them, "I'm human like everyone else." Asked whether he expects to be spoofed on shows like SNL, he said he does: "I hope they get the agencies right." Here's that clip, followed by Perry's email to supporters.
Here's the text of his email:
Friend & Supporter,
We’ve all had human moments. President Obama is still trying to find all 57 states. Ronald Reagan got lost somewhere on the Pacific Highway in an answer to a debate question. Gerald Ford ate a tamale without removing the husk. And tonight Rick Perry forgot the third agency he wants to eliminate. Just goes to show there are too damn many federal agencies.
The governor said it best afterwards: “I’m glad I had my boots on, because I sure stepped in it tonight.”
While the media froths over this all too human moment, we thought we would take this opportunity to ask your help in doing something much more constructive: write us to let us know what federal agency you would most like to forget.
Is it the EPA and its job-killing zealots? The NLRB and its czar-like dictates? The edu-crats at the Department of Education who aim to control your local curriculum?
Send your answer to email@example.com, and if you are on twitter join us in using a new twitter hashtag: #forgetmenot. And, if you could, throw in a $5 contribution for every agency you would like to forget. We hope you have a long list. And we promise we will write down every last idea. So we don’t forget.
Still standing in our Boots,
UPDATE: Perry's "Top 10" excuses for his disastrous debate
One day after he experienced arguably the most humiliating gaffe of his political career, Gov. Rick Perry poked fun at himself on The Late Show with David Letterman by delivering the night's "Top 10" list.
Letterman couldn't help referring to his guest in his monologue, saying he had a trio of concerns about Perry, including his conservative politics, his debating skills, and "three... crap. What was three?"
Perry entered the stage looking visibly giddy before saluting the audience. He delivered the "Top 10 Rick Perry Excuses" for failing to remember the third federal agency he would abolish during Wednesday evening's CNBC debate.
Here it is.
Pegasus News Content partner - The Texas Tribune
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