With a blitz of early morning interviews and TV appearances, the Texas governor was looking to stem any fallout Thursday from his major misstep during the GOP presidential debate.
Perry said, "It just surely gets to the core of the line — that we've got so much government out there." "Federal agencies of government — I bet that there are a lot of Americans out there that would like to forget some agencies of government, too, that are costing them their jobs, that's tearing this economy up," he said in a CNN interview.
" ... That's the seriousness of what we have here," Perry said, adding, "not because I had a brain freeze and failed to remember an agency of government that we do frankly need to do away with, in the form of the Department of Energy."
Wednesday Night's Flub
In Wednesday debate, Perry struggled to name the third federal agency he would cut. "Commerce, Education and the — what's the third one there? Let's see," the Texas governor said.
Perry's rivals tried to bail him out, suggesting the Environmental Protection Agency. "EPA, there you go," Perry said, seemingly taking their word for it.
But that wasn't it. And when pressed, the candidate drew another blank.
"Seriously?" moderator John Harwood, one of the CNBC debate hosts, asked. "You can't name the third one?"
"The third agency of government I would do away with — the Education, the Commerce. And let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't," Perry said. "Oops."
Later in the debate, Perry revisited the question and said he meant to call for the elimination of the Energy Department.
Perry Team in Spin Control Thursday
On Thursday, Perry said he just couldn't think of it. "There were so many federal agencies that come to mind, that I want to get rid of, that the Energy Department would not come out," he said in an interview taped for ABC's Good Morning America.
In an appearance on the Fox News Channel, Perry said, "If anybody's looking for the slickest politician or the smoothest debater, I readily admit I'm not that person.
But what Americans do know is that my committed conservative values has helped lead one of the most influential states in this nation for the last 10 years." And on NBC's "Today" show, Perry seemed to try to make the best of the gaffe, telling an interviewer that forgetting the names of all the agencies he believes should be eliminated makes the "core point" of his campaign — that there are too many agencies.
The immediate fallout has been brutal — at least on Twitter. "Perry response will be on highlight reels for years to come," business legend Jack Welch tweeted.
"Off screen, Dr. (Ron) Paul is sadly administering the last rites to Rick Perry," Republican strategist Mike Murphy added. "Dr. Paul filling out paperwork as they haul Perry away. He's ruling it a suicide." "Rick Perry just lost the debate. And the entire election. You only had to name three," Tim Albrecht, the top spokesman for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who is unaligned in the GOP race, tweeted from his personal account.
Damage Control Mode
After the debate, Perry appeared to be in damage control mode. He's already blasted an email out to his supporters asking them, "what part of the Federal Government would you like to forget about the most?" His website now asks supporters to vote for one.
In dramatic fashion, he bee-lined it to the "spin room" where a crush of reporters were gathered to interview campaign surrogates — and he immediately indicated that he knew he had made a really bad mistake.
The first words out of his mouth as reporters crowded around: "I'm glad I had my boots on because I really stepped in it tonight." Still, Perry almost seemed to minimize the impact, adding: "People understand that it is our conservative principles that matter." "We all felt very bad for him," Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman also running for the nomination, said after the debate, calling the moment uncomfortable.