Politics

After Debate Stumble, Rick Perry Tries to Limit Damage

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: November 10, 2011 5:05 PM
Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas | Credit: Gage Skidmore - Flickr

The team behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination scrambled on Thursday to recover from his performance in a debate in Michigan on Wednesday that was near-universally panned.

Saying he would eliminate three federal departments if he is elected president, Perry listed two of them -- Commerce and Education -- before admitting that he had forgotten one of them. “Oops,” Perry said after trying to remember the third one and failing.

After the debate, Perry met with the media and tried to make light of the blunder. “I’m glad I had my boots on, because I sure stepped in it tonight,” he said.

Perry continued his attempts to recover, making several television appearances on Thursday. Perry’s team, meanwhile, attempted to minimize the damage from the debate, comparing what their candidate did to past stumbles by other politicians.

“We’ve all had human moments,” the Perry team wrote in an email to supporters sent out on Thursday. “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 ... Rick Perry forgot the third agency he wants to eliminate. Just goes to show there are too damn many federal agencies."

The Perry team bashed the media for playing up the debate performance, insisting that the “media froths over this all too human moment.” The Perry camp even looked to make some political hay out of their candidate’s gaffe, asking supporters to vote in a poll over what federal agencies need to be eliminated. Looking to score points with conservatives, the Perry team listed the “EPA and its job-killing zealots,” "the NLRB and its czar-like dictates” and the “edu-crats at the Department of Education who aim to control your local curriculum” as options.

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While they looked to control the damage, the Perry team also focused on the Sunshine State on Thursday. While he started the race with high expectations in Florida and the backing of some political heavyweights -- including House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park -- Perry is currently trailing in the polls. A poll from Quinnipac University released on Thursday found Perry in fourth place with 5 percent of the vote -- far behind rivals Herman Cain, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Texas first lady Anita Perry hit the First Coast on Thursday, speaking to a Republican club in Jacksonville. She noted that while her husband had forgotten one of the departments he hoped to cut, he did remember their wedding anniversary.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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