“It is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone,” he said, beginning to lay out one of the staples of his stump speech. “Commerce, Education, and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see,” Perry said.
“Commerce and, let’s see,” he continued. “I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”
After the debate, Perry’s campaign advisers sought to contain the damage by describing the stumble as “a human moment” and “authentic.” But in a rare appearance in the media filing center after the debate, Perry acknowledged the gravity of the mistake.
“Yeah, I stepped in it, man,” he said. “Yeah, it was embarrassing. Of course it was. But here’s what’s more important: People understand that our principles, our conservative principles, are what matter, not a litany of agencies that I think we need to get rid of.”
He repeated that mantra Thursday morning during interviews with several nationally televised news programs. “If anybody’s looking for the slickest politican or the smoothest debater, I readily admit I’m not that person,” Perry told Fox & Friends. “But my conservative values have led one of the most influential states in the nation.”
One NBC’s “Today” show, Perry said, “One error is not going to make or break a campaign. We’re going to continue talking about the challenges facing this country.”
The debate was brighter for Herman Cain, a Georgia businessman whose campaign has been consumed for the past 10 days by accusations of past sexual harassment.
In the debate’s opening moments, Cain was asked to assess whether voters should judge his character before deciding whether to send him to the White House. In response, he lashed out at his accusers, dismissing the allegations as “character assassination.”
“The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations,” the former Godfather’s Pizza executive said, prompting cheers from the audience. “I value my character and my integrity more than anything else, and for every one person that comes forward with a false accusation, there are thousands who would say none of that sort of activity ever came from Herman Cain.”
Against the backdrop of global economic volatility, the eight Republican presidential candidates who took the stage Wednesday at Oakland University sought to prove they have the ideas, know-how and leadership to pull the United States out of its worst period of economic stagnation since the Great Depression.