Rick Perry
"Oops." Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/CC BY

Texas Governor Rick Perry froze during the Republican candidate debate in Rochester, Mich., Wednesday. The GOP hopeful was not able to remember part of his own campaign policy. Perry vows his campaign will continue, but many now see Mitt Romney as the only front-runner in the Republican race.

Worst gaffe of his campaign

Once the popular leader of the GOP hopefuls, Perry’s numbers have been slipping since his poor performance in two earlier debates. But last night, in the worst gaffe of his campaign, Perry could not name one of three governmental agencies he would eliminate if elected.

“It’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone,” said Perry. “Commerce, Education and the um, what’s the third one there? Let’s see … Commerce, Education and the um, um –”

CNBC’s John Harwood, the moderator for the event, asked, “Seriously? But you can’t name the third one?”

“The third agency of government I would do away with –- the Education, the uh, the Commerce and let’s see. I can’t —- the third one. I can’t. Sorry. Oops,” Perry fumbled.

Damage control too late

Later in the debate Perry said that he had been fishing for the name of the Department of Energy. But the damage had already been done.

Perry remained after the debate to face the media — a task normally left to his press staff. He tried to minimize his slip with humor:

“I’m sure glad I had my boots on because I sure stepped in it out there.”

Perry’s campaign staff sent an email to supporters, also trying to make light of the event:

“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.”

But even many of Perry’s own supporters are seeing this latest slip as the axe for his campaign. One campaign donor tweeted the Washington Post with the comment, “Perry campaign is over. Time to go home.”

Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, called the flub: “The most devastating moment of any modern primary.”

Focus away from Cain

Many had expected the debate to focus on Herman Cain, whose campaign faces increasing heat from multiple women alleging sexual harassment by the candidate. When asked if he thought Perry was finished after this latest misstep, Cain was merciful, saying: “I would not say that. The American people can be very forgiving.”

Romney takes the lead again

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both continue to draw low poll ratings. With Perry’s latest poor debate performance and Herman Cain still under scrutiny for alleged sexual harassment, many now see Mitt Romney — who gave his usual confident and even-handed performance in the debate — as the clear front-runner once again in this turbulent and unpredictable GOP race.

Sources

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/10/rick-perry-2012-mitt-romney_n_1086061.html
ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/11/oops-he-did-it-again-can-rick-perry-recover-the-note/
Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/10/rick-perry-forgets-agency-scrap

 

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