Texas Gov. Rick Perry may have been hoping to capitalize on Herman Cain’s negative press and jump back to front-runner status, but his less-than-stellar debate performance may further weaken those efforts.
Perry was looking at the Michigan debate as an opportunity to seize momentum but experienced a slight memory lapse when he couldn’t recall one of the three agencies he would eliminate if elected president.
“Oops,” was not the answer the national televised audience was looking for.
When asked what federal departments he would eliminate, Perry responded:
“Commerce, Education,” then came Perry’s pause as he struggled to remember the third. “The third one, I can’t…Sorry. Oops.”
Romney, looking to help the Texas governor, offered a suggestion. “EPA?”
“EPA, there you go,” said Perry.
The Texas governor’s gaffe may have gone unnoticed in many other debates, but Perry’s poor performances in past debates – especially the ones in Florida – left him little to no room for error.
“I’m glad I had my boots on tonight,” said Perry, “because I sure stepped in it out there.”
Perry’s slow response stirred immediate response on Twitter.
“Perry collapses, Cannot remember a list of three federal government departments he wants to abolish past the first two,” conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan tweeted. “Seriously. And then he said ‘oops.’”
University of Virginia senior public policy analyst Kyle Kondik was also critical of Perry’s performance.
“Ultimately, Perry is going to be remembered as the man too stupid to win this nomination. That is a remarkable feat.”
CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Roland Martin tweeted, “Damn, he actually forgot the third federal agency he would get rid of! That is THE MOST EMBARRASSING moment of any debate I’ve seen.”
On Thursday morning, Perry appeared on several news programs in an effort to reinforce his desire to remain in the race.
“You bet I’m going to continue on,” Perry said in an interview on NBC’s Today.
Reassuring his core supporters and contributors was a priority his campaign undertook immediately after the debate ended.
“This campaign is about ideas,” Perry said. “It’s not about who’s the slickest debater or whether anyone’s made a mistake or not. We’re all going to make mistakes.”
Perry’s missteps were perhaps the only memorable event of the two-hour debate, as the candidates steered clear of any criticism or remarks involving the allegations of sexual harassment allegations that have been plaguing businessman Herman Cain for the past week.
The issue for the Perry team will be how they can overcome a series of mistakes that have forced Perry into the single digits in most national polls.
In an email to supporters on Thursday morning, the Perry campaign responded by trying to reassure voters that candidate “mistakes” are common as they pointed out former gaffes by other candidates.
“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.”
“It was a political death knell,” GOP strategist Sara Taylor Fagen told The New York Times. “There is just no recovering from a moment like that when you’ve had such a bad record of debates.”