Rick Perry crashes in TV debate

 

Three months after riding confidently into the Republican nomination race, Governor Rick Perry of Texas managed in a television debate last night to clobber his own campaign by boldly declaring that he would close three government departments as US president and then finding he could remember only two of them.

“And I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone,” he began. “Commerce, Education, and the – what’s the third one there? Let’s see...Okay. Commerce, Education, and the…”   The fumble, from which he could not extract himself, was an excruciating moment for a candidate who has already seen his early high poll ratings collapse because of poor reviews of his debating skills.

Within moments of the debate ending, Governor Perry made directly for the packed press room adjacent to the debate venue at Oakland University, in Rochester, Michigan, to try to repair some of the damage.  “I’m glad I had my boots on tonight because I sure stepped in it,” he said to reporters, attempting to leaven what was evidently an awful moment for him with humour.  “Yes, it was embarrassing, of course it was.”

The Perry blunder was an unexpected gift to the other seven candidates on the stage but perhaps especially to Herman Cain, who had arrived here last night in the midst of his own special drama triggered by the surfacing from his past of allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women when he was leader of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. “Why should American people hire a president if they feel there are character issues?” a moderator for the CNBC cable network asked.

Pushing back against the question, Cain earned loud applause from the audience at the debate.  “I value my character and my integrity more than anything else,” he said referring to his still strong fundraising success and more or less stable poll numbers that have put him neck and neck with long-time front-runner, Mitt Romney. “Over the last nine days, the voters have voted with their dollars, and they’re saying they don’t care about the character assassination. They care about leadership and getting this economy going.”

Mr Cain, however, made his own apologies after the debate was over for referring to Nancy Pelosi, the former Speaker of the House, as “Princess Pelosi”.  In any circumstance, making such a disparaging quip about one of America’s most powerful women might have cost Mr Cain.  Given his current problems, the remark seemed especially unwise.  “That was a statement I probably should not have made,” he said.

The whole issue of Mr Cain and the allegations against him that have dominated news cycles in the US for the last nine days was over at the debate almost as quickly as it started, shut down, in fact, by Mr Romney. “Herman Cain is the person to respond to these questions,” Mr Romney said when asked what he thought about the charges. “The people in the room and across the country can make their own assessment.”

For sure, the stumbles of Mr Perry will be enough to change the subject for now. “To my memory, Perry’s forgetfulness is the most devastating moment of any modern primary debate,” Larry Sabato, director of the political department at the University of Virginia remarked. 

It was about ten minutes further into the debate when Mr Perry finally recalled the third of the three agencies was that he wanted to axe.   It was the Department of Energy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?