Last night, in the latest Republican Presidential debate, held in Michigan, Texas Governor Rick Perry continued his campaign to the bottom of the field by making a fairly bad mistake on stage.
Since the Perry campaign’s initial boom onto the national stage, support for the Texan has diminished, with businessman Herman Cain taking over the position of the Non-Mitt-Romney candidate in the GOP field. Cain has run into some tricky ground lately, with former employees stepping forward to make claims of sexual harassment. The Herman Cain scandal has led some commentators to believe that there is an opening for one of the Republican candidates to take advantage of Cain’s position in order to claim the lead in the race.
Ricky Perry, although not as popular as he once was in the field of GOP candidates, was uniquely posed to retake the lead over Mitt Romney. Perry’s out-of-the-gate stumbles had less to do with the candidate being not what conservative voters were looking for, but more with campaign “growing pains,” with the candidate struggling in debates and making minor mistakes at campaign stops. All these flaws were easy to solve, if the campaign were to buckle down and make sure the candidate drilled home all the national campaigning skills that, as a newcomer to the national scene, Perry seemed to lack.
Instead, at last night’s debate, Perry cemented his image as an empty suit, prone to gaffes and mistakes. When asked which federal agencies he would eliminate, Perry said “I will tell you: It’s three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see. … OK. So Commerce, Education and the — … The third agency of government I would — I would do away with the Education, the … Commerce and — let’s see — I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
For a government-cutting conservative voter, the kind of voter the Perry campaign has been targeting, this answer is not only a gaffe on style points, but after questions about Perry’s commitment to small government, this line can be seen as evidence that Perry is not the solid conservative GOP primary voters want. Most true-blue [red?] conservatives know which agencies they would want to eliminate or cut, most often citing Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others.
Perry’s debate wounds have all been self-inflicted, contributing even more to the notion that the Governor is not ready for the national arena. Having fumbled his chance to take the lead from Herman Cain, it is possible the Perry campaign may have missed their best chance to retake the lead in the GOP race.