Rick Perry proved on a debate stage in Michigan last night that a lot can happen in 53 seconds — especially if you can’t remember what you wanted to say.
The erstwhile front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination (remember those days?) whose campaign has been on a downward slide ever since he stumbled in his first few debates, committed his most cringe-worthy gaffe last night. Perry was unable to name the three agencies of government he wanted to eliminate.
“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. http://abcn.ws/rKowSc
“Seriously?” CNBC moderator John Harwood pressed. “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.” ( WATCH: http://abcn.ws/rKowSc)
It wasn’t just a fumble or a stumble, it was an all out face plant. The third agency Perry couldn’t think of was the Department of Energy, which he rails against on the stump nearly every day. And for a candidate whose weakness is debates, it may have been the another nail in the coffin for his campaign.
As ABC Political Director Amy Walter pointed out on Nightline last night, “Cats get nine lives…I don’t know that candidates get that many.
Ever since that moment, Perry has been engaged in some heavy duty damage control, making a rare appearance in the debate “spin room” last night to tell members of the press, “I’m glad I had my boots on tonight because I sure stepped in it out there. I stepped in it. Man, yeah it was embarrassing. Of course it was.”
And in an appearance on “Good Morning America” today, Perry vowed to keep fighting.
“The bottom line is that we’re going to get up every day and talk to the American people and they know that there is not a perfect candidate that’s made yet. I’m kind of proof positive of it every day that people make mistakes when they debate. People make mistakes when they make statements,” Perry told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “But there is one thing that Americans do know about me, and that is my conservative beliefs about getting this country back on track are very deep founded.” http://abcn.ws/vL8V7k
His campaign is even trying to make light of the incident, sending an e-mail to supporters with the subject line: “So, what agency would you most like to forget.” The message begins:
“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 for the future of Perry’s campaign, his mistake last night may turn out to be no laughing matter. The Texas governor has promised to participate in this month’s remaining two debates — one this weekend in South Carolina and another the following week in Washington, DC. Both focus on foreign policy and national security — neither topic is necessarily one of Perry’s strongest subjects.
And although the Texas governor’s performance last night must be forcing some of his supporters to scratch their heads, not all of them are ready to abandon ship right away.
“Embarrassing, yes,” a top Perry fundraiser, Henry Barbour tweeted Thursday morning. “But Gov Perry will keep fighting. Tells u something about him. And I’ll be calling folks for $ today.”
BOTTOM LINE: What may be most remarkable about the “Oops” heard ’round the world is that, for at least one night, it shifted everyone’s gaze away from the maelstrom of sexual harassment allegations enveloping Herman Cain. And for the Democrats it was as if neither Perry nor Cain was on the debate stage last night. The party that controls the White House continues to be laser-like focused on one candidate: Mitt Romney. The Democratic National Committee unveiled a new web video this morning titled, “No Mitt, You Didn’t Care At All.”
“Last night, Mitt Romney made crystal clear his political philosophy, and perhaps a new campaign slogan: You’re On Your Own,” DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said in a statement. “If you’re a middle-class American worried about losing your job, your home or your health care, don’t look to Mitt Romney for leadership – he’s fishing for right-wing votes by promising to turn his back on you.”
CAIN STAYS ABOVE THE FRAY… “While Perry flopped, Cain’s fortunes could not have been more different. Earlier in the debate, when CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo started to ask Cain about the sexual harassment allegations, the crowd at Oakland University booed loudly,” ABC’s Matthew Jaffe notes. “‘Mr. Cain, the American people want jobs, but they also want leadership. They want character in a president. In recent days, we have learned that four different women have accused you of inappropriate behavior. Here we’re focusing on character and on judgment,’ Bartiromo said, prompting fierce boos from the audience, protesting the question they knew was coming. … ‘The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations,’ Cain said to huge cheers from the crowd. ‘And I value my character and my integrity more than anything else. And for every one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are probably — there are thousands who would say none of that sort of activity ever came from Herman Cain.’” http://abcn.ws/sVppve
…AND SKIPS THE SPIN. A dispatch from ABC’s debate team: Matthew Jaffe, Susan Archer, Emily Friedman and Arlette Saenz: “After all of the eight previous Republican debates to date, Herman Cain was one of the few candidates to appear in the post-debate spin room himself, taking questions from media rather than sending a surrogate in his place. No more. The businessman, currently trying to bat down accusations of sexual harassment, was not anywhere to be found in the spin room following Wednesday’s debate at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. It was the first time Cain has skipped a spin room this year, an aspect of debate night he typically relishes. In fact, nobody from Cain’s camp of representatives came to the spin tonight, his corner of the room completely void of staffers.” http://abcn.ws/s3qOmN
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: CONGRESSMAN CHARLIE RANGEL. ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter interview Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who has been supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement. He made a YouTube video titled “Mad As Hell” to broadcast his support. Also on the program, Paul Bremer, former ambassador to Iraq. He’s auctioning himself off in the form of a lunch date to help raise money for charities that support America’s veterans. The “Top Line” team talk to him about his new book, “From Sea to Shining Sea,” which documents his ride across the country with disabled veterans. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc
REGGIE LOVE’S LABOR’S LOST. “The man by Barack Obama’s side since even before the early days of Iowa is leaving. Reggie Love, 30, a 6’5? former forward for the 2001 NCAA championship-winning Duke Blue Devils basketball team and President Obama’s omnipresent personal aide, is departing the White House in the next few weeks,” according to ABC News’ Jake Tapper. “A former wide receiver for the Duke football team, he tried out for several NFL teams, but those dreams didn’t come to fruition. Love, a former ABC News World News person of the week in January 2009, applied for an internship in Sen. Barack Obama’s Senate office. He eventually worked his way to the senator’s side, and they bonded over sports and began a superstitious ritual of playing basketball on primary and caucus days, developing a sibling-like relationship, with the president likening him to a ‘little brother.’ … The news of Love’s departure was first reported by Anne Korblut of the Washington Post.” http://abcn.ws/tKIDVu
CAIN’S ACCUSER FACES SCRUTINY. “L. Lin Wood, the lawyer hired by the Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain to fend off sexual harassment accusations, has warned that any other women who might be considering coming forward with similar allegations “should think twice,’ The New York Times’ Jim Rutenberg writes. “On Wednesday morning, less than 24 hours after Karen Kraushaar identified herself as one of two women who had received monetary settlements relating to harassment allegations against Mr. Cain … Ms. Kraushaar faced questions about a workplace complaint she filed at a subsequent job, at the Immigration and Naturalization Service. … As Ms. Kraushaar continued her day-old effort to bring the other women accusing Mr. Cain of sexual harassment together for a joint news briefing, she and the others confronted the challenges of taking on a presidential candidate: intensive scrutiny of their backgrounds and motives, encouraged and amplified in this case by conservative news outlets and commentators whose support for Mr. Cain as he battles the allegations has helped him weather the crisis so far. Ms. Kraushaar told friends she was beginning to worry that all the scrutiny might keep the other women from appearing publicly with her. … Keeping her own low profile on Wednesday, Ms. Kraushaar said in a brief statement to The New York Times, ‘Anyone should be able to report allegations of sexual harassment without fear that their lives and careers will be put on public display and laid open to public scrutiny.’” http://nyti.ms/s1hy4D
SENATE TO PASS PIECE OF OBAMA’S JOBS BILL? “Brace yourself. Sit down. This is not something you’re used to hearing,” writes ABC’s Sunlen Miller. “Thursday the Senate will likely pass the first piece of President Obama’s jobs bill. Twenty-nine days after the failure of the overall jobs package, 28 days after the Senate declared it would pick out parts of the bill and start passing them and after at least two failed attempts at passing other of the bill - this will be the first piece to get though the Senate. The Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 will provide incentives to employers to make hiring veterans a priority. … The measure would provide a tax credit to companies of up to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months and a $2,400 credit for veterans who have been unemployed for more than four weeks but less than six months. If a company hires a veteran with service-connected disabilities who has been looking for a job for more than six months the company can receive a tax credit of up to $9,600.” http://abcn.ws/svakHn
ROMNEY BOOK WILL HIT SHELVES IN JANUARY. “A new book about presidential candidate Mitt Romney will hit shelves in January 2012, the very month that the first voters will cast their ballots for the GOP nominee,” ABC’s Emily Friedman reports. “The book, ‘The Real Romney,’ is co-authored by Boston Globe deputy Washington bureau chief Michael Kranish and political editor Scott Helman, and is based on more than five years of reporting and hundreds of interviews, many of which were chronicled in the paper’s seven-part series published in 2007. Set to be published by HarperCollins, the book is described by the publishing company as an exploration of ’Romney’s home life, his bond with his wife and how they handled her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, and his difficult years as a Mormon missionary in France, where a fatal car crash had a profound effect on his path.’” http://abcn.ws/uQkW83
ROGER SIMON ON ROMNEY: “Republicans fall in line, and Democrats fall in love. That’s how the old saying goes,” the Politico columnist writes in a post-debate analysis. “Three years ago, Democrats fell in love with Barack Obama. Today, after nine major Republican debates and before anyone has cast a single vote, Republicans seem poised to fall in line behind Mitt Romney. And why shouldn’t they? In debate after debate, he has proven himself to be the least bad candidate on the stage. The candidates who surge after him, or even in front of him, in the polls always seems to come to a bad end.” http://politi.co/vpJ6IC
IN THE NOTE’S INBOX: Roll Call’s Associate Politics Editor Christina Bellantoni notes that Friend of The Note “Abby Livingston makes her front-page debut with a look at Donna Edwards’ primary. She’s up against a county official with deep Hill and CBC roots, but Markos says the netroots will rally to protect her seat.” http://bit.ly/tf5JCa
@ jaketapper : As a Pennsylvanian, I always found the Paterno worship unnerving, as if it were a football program with a school attached.
@ daveweigel : Man, slow news week.
* Herman Cain will spend the day campaigning throughout the state of Michigan, traveling from Kalamazoo all the way up North to Traverse City.
* Mitt Romney campaigns in Michigan, a day after all the GOP candidates took part in the CNBC debate. His wife Ann Romney will host an event in Lansing, Michigan.
* Rick Perry holds a fundraiser in Nashville, Tenn., and his wife Anita Perry will host two meet and greets in Jacksonville, Florida.
* Newt Gingrich begins his day in Detroit and ends with a “Constitutional Conversation” in Hampton, New Hampshire.
* Rick Santorum campaigns in New Hampshire with four events, including the Nackey S. Loeb Dinner where Vice President Joe Biden will speak.
* Michelle Bachmann will give a foreign policy address in South Carolina.
* Ron Paul has two campaign events in New Hampshire including a forum on the economy.
Check out The Note’s Futures Calendar: http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV
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* For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog: http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/ and ABCNews.com/Politics: http://abcnews.com/politics