In an attempt to reconstruct his image after committing one gaffe after another, Texas Gov. Rick Perry hit the late-night circuit for the second time in recent weeks Thursday night, trying to turn his recent blunders into comic relief instead of allowing the conversation to focus on the mistakes that could contribute to the derailment of his candidacy.
During an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Perry, wearing his cowboy boots and walking out to “Deep In The Heart of Texas,” spun his debate gaffe as a simple moment of forgetfulness.
“Well, you know, one, two, and then — uh, uh. It happens, man. Let me tell you. I said, ‘Listen, it happens,’” said Perry, referring to his inability during a debate to remember the third federal department he would eliminate as president. “Every now and then I call my dogs by the wrong name. I get that wrong, too.”
In the opening sketch of the comedy show, Perry and Leno turned the Texas governor’s “Oops” moment into a joke about the Kardashian sisters. As Leno struggled to name one of the three sisters, Perry chimed in: “Khloe. It’s just three names, Jay. It’s not that hard to remember.”
Perry’s appearance on “The Tonight Show” revealed the candidate’s ability to make light of his mistakes while he faces criticism for his blunders. The campaign further tried to capitalize off the moment by turning his cringe-worthy debate gaffe into a television ad in Iowa, which aired before and after his appearance on Leno, highlighting his slip-up as a human moment.
“You know, we’ve all lost our train of thought before, but not many have done it on national TV. If you want a slick debater, I’m obviously not your guy, but if you want to clean house in Washington with a balanced budget amendment, a flat tax and a part-time Congress, I’m your man,” Perry said in the 30-second ad.
“I’m Rick Perry, and what’s that line again?” he said as the ad drew to a close
From the moment the slip-up occurred, the Perry campaign has been in damage-control mode. The candidate emerged from the November CNBC debate and moved straight to the spin room, telling reporters, “I stepped in it.”
The day after the debate in which Perry couldn’t name the Department of Energy as the third department he would eliminate, the Texas governor engaged in a media blitz, appearing on every morning television show, agreeing to several interviews with Fox News, and reading the Top 10 list on the Late Show with David Letterman. The Perry campaign even purchased a nearly-$1 million national ad buy two days after the gaffe to air a TV spot that touted the candidate as a “doer, not a talker.”
But as he tries to move past the now viral debate gaffe, Perry is dealing with another series of mini-gaffes that threaten to further highlight his mistake prone tendencies. While campaigning in New Hampshire this week, Perry referred to the New Hampshire primary as the “New Hampshire caucuses,” cited the voting age as 21 instead of 18 and misstated the date of the general election.
“You and I, we grew up in that 21 voting age,” Perry told Leno as he laughed off his flub about the voting age. “I was thinking drinking age, maybe.
“You’ve got to have an excuse; right? So that’s mine, and I’m sticking to it,” he said.
But Perry’s late night appearance wasn’t all laughs. The Texas governor used the two-segment interview to relay his campaign message, touting his proposals to establish a part-time Congress, set term limits for judges and offer the option of a 20 percent flat tax while also explaining his stances on bringing troops home from Iraq and Social Security.
Asked how Herman Cain should handle the allegations plaguing his campaign, Perry said a candidate’s personal life is fair game.
“Yeah, I think it matters,” he said. “I think the issue is what’s your values. If you are going to stand up and run as, you know, a faith-based individual, if you are going to run on a set of values then and then your- People hate hypocrites.”
Perry, who has served as governor of Texas for nearly 11 years, said he has undergone the personal vetting process during each of his gubernatorial campaigns, making his personal life “an open book.”
“I’ve been elected three times to governor of the state of Texas,” he said. “I can promise you I have been investigated inside, outside, back and forth.”