Can Rick Perry save his presidential campaign by playing his gaffe for laughs?
The Texas governor and GOP candidate is in full damage-control mode, trying to keep his presidential hopes alive after his memorable memory lapse during Wednesday night’s GOP debate – a flub that immediately joined the list of defining debate moments and had even some supporters saying Perry was toast.
Perry’s painful “oops” moment went viral immediately, with the clip of him struggling to come up with the third federal agency he would shut down if elected becoming the most-viewed YouTube video in the United States – and the most-viewed in some key cities in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, according to YouTube.
But the Perry camp isn’t giving up, and the candidate insists he’s not dropping out. Instead, he’s hoping to score whatever points he can by admitting his mistake, pointing out that other politicians – from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama – have also made some embarrassing gaffes, and laughing along with those who are poking fun at him. Perry’s self-mockery started on Twitter Wednesday night, when he posted, "I'm glad I had my boots on because I really stepped in it tonight."
His campaign on Thursday posted a poll on Perry’s website, asking, “What part of the Federal Government would you like to forget about the most?” and offered 11 choices (including the Department of Energy – which Perry blanked on – along with the National Endowment of the Arts, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Marine Mammal Commission, among others). Voters can also send in their own submissions by emailing email@example.com.
The candidate also made the rounds of the Thursday morning television shows, appearing on all the major networks and repeating on CNN that he’d “stepped in it.”
Perry’s TV tour continues Thursday night when he's scheduled to present the Top Ten list on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman.
Thursday’s jokefest may help rehabilitate Perry’s image a bit – perhaps more voters will think of him as someone they’d want to hang out with over a few beers. But it will take more than that to change the newly cemented perception that he’s an intellectual lightweight, or to overcome the stream of Perry punchlines that are sure to continue at least until the next debate this Saturday, November 12, which will focus on national security . (“I am 100 percent convinced Rick Perry has his name stitched into every single pair of his underpants,” one Twitter user wrote. Ouch.)
Perry is also doing the only thing he can to stay in the race, but it may now be impossible for him to convince GOP primary voters that he can go toe-to-toe with Barack Obama – or persuade a majority of the electorate overall that he should be in the Oval Office.