Rick Perry’s greatest Republican debate misses

at 09:46 AM ET, 10/11/2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has become known in a few short weeks as a bad debater. As we get ready for tonight’s Washington Post/Bloomberg News debate, he has a chance to set things right — or to reinforce a narrative that he cannot hold his own on stage. Here are some of the lowlights of Perry’s debate performances so far.

Social Security as Ponzi scheme:

At the NBC News/Politico debate, Perry defended his argument that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” — a position that raised questions about his electability.

Perry as Galileo:

The governor stumbled in his answer on global warming in the NBC News/Politico debate, arguing that “Galileo got outvoted for a spell” and failing to name any of the scientists who are skeptical of climate change or theories that bolstered his position.

Can’t be bought for $5,000:

Perry sounded clever when he said at the CNN debate that the $5,000 donation he got from Merck was not enough to buy his support for the HPV vaccine Gardasil — except he actually got nearly $30,000 for his gubernatorial campaigns from the drugmaker since 2000, and Merck and its subsidiaries gave more than $380,000 to the Republican Governors Association since Perry took it over in 2006. The slip-up only increased scrutiny of his ties to the drug company.

You have no heart:

In the Fox News/Google debate, Perry angered conservatives by saying that those who opposed in-state tuititon for undocumented immigrants “did not have a heart.” There were loud boos from the audience, and he later apologized.

Flubbing a Romney attack:

Perry had a solid shot on Romney’s flip-flops at the Fox News/Google, debate, but he screwed it up by stuttering and seeming to forget his points. What could have been a great clip for the governor turned into an embarassment. Romney’s response: “Nice try.”

Confusion on Pakistan:

Perry’s confusing, rambling answer at the Fox News/Google debate on what he would do if Pakistan lost control of its nuclear weapons to the Taliban left observers scratching their heads.

Parents should get opt-out:

In defending his HPV vaccine mandate at the Fox News/Google debate, Perry appeared to insult parents who opposed the vaccination of teenage girls.

Even as he admitted that there should have been an opt-in system, the governor said, “I don’t understand what part of opt-out parents don’t get.” He also misleadingly suggested that his decision was influenced by meetings with a cervical cancer victim named Heather Burcham; he did not meet her until after he signed the executive order.

Will Perry do better tonight? There’s only one way to find out.

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