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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions