Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain have one thing in common: they both shot to the top of the GOP presidential polls at lightning fast speed. However, political missteps may hamper both men’s bid for the presidency. While Perry has chosen to try and correct his mistakes with humor, Cain has chosen to go down the road of defiance.
After an embarrassing 53-second brain freeze at Wednesday night’s GOP debate, Perry took to the media to try and take control of the narrative. He dashed from media outlet to media outlet in a hurried damage control mission. His strategy was to use humor to deflect the voters’ attention from his obvious gaffe.
"I don't know what you're talking about – I think things went well," the Texan joked the next evening on David Letterman's "Late Show" about the outcome of the debate. During the CNBC debate, the governor couldn't remember the third department that he would cut from the federal budget.
''I wanted to help take the heat off my buddy Herman Cain."
Perry also delivered Letterman’s famous “Top 10 List” featuring his top 10 excuses for flubbing the debate. Among the punch lines was:
“Hey listen, you try concentrating with Mitt Romney smiling at you – that is one handsome dude.”
Perry’s response is almost textbook: make the voters relate to how human you are and convince them not to take the flub so seriously.
Veteran Republican media consultant Alex Castellanos has never been a big Perry supporter, according to The Daily Beast. However, he said he can’t “remember a candidate who has tackled a campaign crisis so forcefully and so strongly.”
Immediately after his mistake made headlines, his team sent out an email reminding supporters of all the human moments past great presidents have had. The email said his gaffe was proof that there are just “too damn many federal agencies.” His website also tried to cash in on this mistake as a way to increase donations: supporters can opt to “throw in a $5 contribution for every agency [they] would like to forget.”
It’s too early to tell if Perry’s humor will be enough to make voters forget about his brain freeze. However, most pundits agree that he has handled damage control the best that he could.
Cain, on the other hand, took the route of defiance. He has recently been charged with allegations of sexual assault by at least four women during his tenure as CEO of the National Restaurant Association. He denies all charges. Regardless of whether or not the allegations are true, Cain has to repair his soiled public image.
Politico has claimed that they gave Cain’s campaign a 10-day notice before the story was to be published. Still, Cain’s staff did not have a cohesive, straight explanation to the charges. Instead, he came out making contradictory statements and his staff made allegations against a Politico journalist that proved to be false. He lashed out at the Democrats and at Rick Perry’s campaign, blaming them for trying to dig up a false story.
This response was anything but textbook material. The allegations, though they may be false, have revealed a disorganized and incompetent Cain campaign. While approximately 60 percent of likely Republican voters have said the allegations do not persuade them on whether or not to vote for Cain, many have expressed concern on whether or not he is ready to handle the White House.
“When voters go to vote in private, they are going to be less willing to vote for a candidate that seems unprepared,” said Michael Barone, resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute, to The Christian Post.
“Cain’s response does not strengthen anyone’s conviction that he’s prepared to be president.”
Erick Erickson of Red State wrote a column on Thursday declaring that Cain still has a shot at the presidency, but he must fire his campaign staff and start over. Many times on the campaign trail Cain has told supporters that he does not have all the answers but that as president he would surround himself with people who did. However, the people he’s surrounded himself with in his campaign do not seem to be helping him in his time of crisis. This has made voters wonder exactly what kind of people Cain would bring on as president.
“You’ve surrounded yourself with Class A failures,” Erickson wrote. “The communications strategy has been an unmitigated disaster.”
According to a CBS poll released Friday morning, however, Cain is still ahead in the race though his support is detracting. He has 18 percent support from likely Republican primary voters, two percentage points ahead of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Perry’s support is not in the double digits.