Rick Perry's Viral Campaign Moments

PHOTO: Rick Perry speaks to people at the Southern Thymes Restaurant on Trade St. on Jan. 18, 2012 in Greer, S.C.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Late to the race but with Texas swagger, Gov. Rick Perry jumped into the presidential fray last August, the same weekend of a much-anticipated Iowa straw poll that weeded out some of the other contenders. He became an instant front-runner with an impeccable political resume and Texas-size confidence. The former Democrat jogged with a pistol, was famous for killing a coyote and bragged of a booming economy in his home state. But Perry's slipups at debates and on the campaign trail cost him dearly.

See what ABC News was reporting back in August, when Perry took the race by storm.

VIDEO: GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry is animated during Cornerstone Action Dinner.
ABCNEWS.com

Perry's campaign was already on a downward slope when he delivered a lively speech at the Cornerstone Action Dinner in Manchester, N.H., in late October, where he compared the slogan of the state of New Hampshire to that of the Alamo, and even poked a little fun at opponent Herman Cain.

Posted Saturday, the video received nearly 90,000 hits by Monday morning.

"This is such a cool state. I mean come on. 'Live free or die.' You got to love that right?" Perry said of New Hampshire. "I come from a state, you know, where they have this little place called the Alamo and they declared 'Victory or death.' We're kind of into those slogans: 'Live free or die.' 'Victory or death.' Bring it.

"That plan I just shared with you doesn't force the Granite State to expand your tax footprint if you know what I mean, like 9 percent expansion," Perry, 61, said to laughter. "I love Herman. Is he the best? I just try to have fun with him. He's a great and interesting guy. And thank you Herman, for helping pay for the event tonight."

CNBC Debate: Rick Perry's Big 'Oops'
ABCNEWS.com

Rick Perry delivered his biggest fumble of the campaign when he failed to name the third agency he would eliminate if he were to become president during a Republican presidential debate in Rochester, Mich.

"It's three agencies of government when I get there that are gone – Commerce, Education and the um, what's the third one there? Let's see. Oh five – Commerce, Education and the um, um," Perry said.

Mitt Romney, standing two podiums to Perry's right, offered the Environmental Protection Agency as a suggestion.

"EPA, there you go," Perry said.

But then, the Texas governor quickly retracted his statement, saying the EPA doesn't need to be eliminated but simply rebuilt.

Again, he tried to name the third mystery agency.

"But you can't name the third one?" CNBC moderator John Harwood asked.

"The third agency of government I would do away with - the education, the uh, the commerce and let's see. I can't [name] the third one. I can't. Sorry, oops."

The third agency Perry couldn't remember was the Department of Energy, which he rails against on the stump nearly every day.

Perry finally remembered the third agency 15 minutes later after referring to his notes, saying, "By the way, it was the Department of Energy I was talking about."

Just minutes after the the debate ended, Perry took to the spin room and told reporters he was embarrassed by his gaffe.

"Speaking of boots, I'm glad I had my boots on tonight because I sure stepped in it out there," Perry joked. "I stepped in it. Man, yeah it was embarrassing. Of course it was.

Rick Perry: The Christian Candidate
ABCNEWS.com

In an overt attempt to appeal to conservatives who disagree with the social policies adopted by the Obama administration, Perry released a controversial TV ad that accused President Obama of launching a "war on religion" and criticized the policy of gay men and women serving openly in the military.

The ad caused a firestorm of "dislikes" on Youtube - more than 747,000 - compared with 25,000 likes.

Watch the ad here.

"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian, but you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school," Perry, wearing a tan jacket and blue shirt while walking and looking directly toward the camera, says in the ad. "As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion, and I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again."

VIDEO: GOP contender Rick Perry can't remember Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
ABCNEWS.com

As he railed against "activist" judges in Des Moines in December, the Texas governor slipped up on not only the name of one of the Supreme Court justices but also on how many sit on the bench.

"When you see his appointment of two, from my perspective, inarguably activist judges whether it was …" Perry said in the Des Moines Register editorial board meeting, pausing for six seconds. "Not Montemayor …"

"Sotomayor," a member of the editorial board interrupted.

"Sotomayor, Sotomayor," Perry said. "And Kagan are both activist judges."

Shortly after this flub, Perry referred to "eight unelected" judges when discussing who should decide whether prayer is allowed in schools.

"For Washington to tell a local school district that you cannot have a prayer and a time of prayer in that school is, I think, offensive to most Americans. I trust the people of the states to make those decisions. I trust those independent school districts to make those decisions better than eight unelected, and frankly, unaccountable judges," Perry said

But there are nine Supreme Court justices, not eight.

VIDEO: Republican contenders clash in first debate featuring front-runner Rick Perry.
ABCNEWS.com

The crowd at a Republican presidential debate in South Carolina in September applauded when Perry explained his view of the death penalty and justice in Texas.

Perry has authorized more executions than any governor in the history of the United States. He said at a Republican presidential debate Wednesday that he has never worried that the state of Texas had ever executed an innocent man.

"I've never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place," Perry said. "When someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States if that's required."

Perry said the death penalty should be dealt with on a state-by-state basis but supported the decision of Texas to uphold the death penalty, calling it the "ultimate justice."

"In the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed."

When NBC's Brian Williams asked Perry the question about the death penalty and pointed to the 234 executions – even before Perry answered – the Republican debate crowd erupted in applause for the governor's actions. Perry pointed to the applause as indicating a vast majority of Americans supported capital punishment.

Perry's most controversial death penalty case came in 2004 when Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for the murder of his three daughters in a fire that investigators ruled as arson.

While on death row, scientists developed a report questioning the legitimacy of the evidence used against Willingham. Following Willingham's execution, the Texas Forensic Commission ordered a re-examination of the case, and Craig Beyler, a fire scientist, examined the evidence and came to the same conclusion as other scientists: No evidence existed to conclude arson had been committed.

Just before Beyler was to present his evidence to the commission, Perry replaced the chairman of the commission, who canceled the meeting. The commission's work was never finalized, leaving many asking whether was an innocent man had been executed.

VIDEO: Texas governor warns of Iran taking over Iraq, blasts Obama's decision.
ABCNEWS.com

Rick Perry's attention-grabbing comment during ABC and Yahoo News' Jan. 7 New Hampshire debate that troops should be sent back to Iraq exploded on Twitter.

"I would send troops back into Iraq because I will tell you, I think we start talking with the Iraqi individuals there," Perry said. "The idea that we allow the Iranians to come back into Iraq and take over that country with all of the treasure both in blood and money that we have spent in Iraq because this president wants to kowtow to this liberal leftist base and move out those men and women."

Republicans such as Mitt Romney cautioned, as the last U.S. troops left Iraq in December, that President Obama had withdrawn too precipitously, but no candidate had suggested flooding troops back into Iraq after their exit.

The question about Perry's comment: If the U.S. wanted to send troops back to Iraq, could it?

The answer: probably not. While a U.S. commander-in-chief can order troops anywhere in the world, and while U.S. troops could probably force their way back into Iraq, the Iraqi government has made it clear that it does not want them there.

U.S. troops left Iraq in December because of the expiration, at the end of 2011, of the U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement that kept them there. The Obama administration had engaged in talks with Iraq to keep some U.S. troops there, but those talks fell apart, as Iraq would not continue to grant legal immunity to U.S. troops within its borders, as ABC's Jake Tapper reported in October. Since the exit of U.S. troops, Iraq has seen a wave of violence.

Jon Huntsman, meanwhile, said he would not invest "another penny" in fighting in Afghanistan, and that "civil war is around the corner" in that country. It's worth noting the state of affairs between the U.S., the Afghan government, and the Taliban. U.S. negotiations with the Taliban have the support of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the administration is considering releasing some Guantanamo Bay detainees as part of those negotiations, but U.S. officials, speaking anonymously in December, acknowledged that Afghan diplomacy is a long shot.

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