After Debate Gaffe, Perry Says He 'Stepped In It,' But Is Not Calling It Quits

2012 hopeful on debate gaffe, tax plan


Rick Perry's seemingly insurmountable gaffe at Wednesday's Republican presidential debate, which reached the top of YouTube's most viewed videos on Thursday -- may not be so terribly devastating to his campaign after all.

To some political observers, the Texas governor's legendary brain freeze went down as the worst unforced error in modern debating history. 

But Perry is actually starting to campaign off the gaffe in which he blanked on the third of three departments in the federal government that he would eliminate. And his campaign issued a fundraising appeal, saying the 2012 hopeful has just demonstrated that the federal government is so vast and unwieldy that the most-versed politician can't keep it all straight.

"We've all had human moments. 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. ... Just goes to show there are too damn many federal agencies," the campaign said in a fundraising letter, urging supporters to write it which federal agency they'd "most like to forget." 

"We hope you have a long list. And we promise we will write down every last idea. So we don't forget," Team Perry wrote.

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"I think we've had over 2,000 hits already," Perry said on Fox News during a Thursday afternoon appearance, the latest in a sweep of television media outlet interviews for the day.

Earlier in the day, Perry laid on the Texas charm, saying he "stepped in it last night, that's for sure,"  but he's no quitter when it comes to his pursuit of the White House. 

"You know what today is, it's the 200, and I believe, 36th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. If there was a day to quit, this isn't it," Perry told Fox News, adding that he's going out to the heartland to talk about issues.

Admitting he's not the "slickest politician or the best debater," Perry said "style over substance certainly happened last night."

Perry said he will also attend another GOP debate Saturday in South Carolina, but doesn't know his schedule after that. He has weighed whether to abandon the debate format for venues and events where he can excel in one-on-one contacts and long-form answers.

And he argued he has the best plan for an American recovery.

"I am hoping that the American people are the type of individuals that understand there are mistakes to be made, but what are you going to get done for us. Those people sitting around the dinner table, around the TV last night may not have a job, or are fixing to lose a job because of policies that have been put in place because of these federal agencies that are piling the regulations on," he said.

That may have been the case on Wednesday night as the Texas governor challenged Rep. Ron Paul to go big. Paul has proposed shuttering five agencies and slashing $1 trillion from the U.S. budget in his first year of his presidency. 

Matching Paul's conviction, if not his concentration, Perry said he would slash the departments of Education and Commerce. He then stammered and shuffled his notes as he tried to come up with the third.  

Prodded by opponent Mitt Romney, Perry suggested the Environmental Protection Agency which isn't a full federal department. The moderator asked if that's the agency he meant. Perry continued the awkward gaffe and wasn't able to name a third department.

"Commerce and, let's see," he continued. "I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops."

The gaffe immediately became the topic of the Twitterati, with University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato tweeting, "To my memory, Perry's forgetfulness is the most devastating moment of any modern primary debate."

"You know there are some agencies of government I'd like to forget, and I certainly forgot one last night. It was the Department of Energy," Perry said Thursday.