Austin, TX – Political operatives, reporters and pundits alike agreed - the biggest story to come out of last nights republican debate in Michigan was Governor Rick Perry's gaffe. As Ben Philpott reports For KUT News, the more important story is what his performance on stage may have started behind the scenes.
Just how bad was it?
Rick Perry: "And I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the -- what's the third one there? Let's see.
Ron Paul: You need five.
Perry: Oh, five, OK. So Commerce, Education, and the...I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops."
That's the short version. Some are calling the governors memory loss a historic flub--a Howard Dean "scream". So bad that Perry himself headed to the spin room after the debate to talk to the press--Something he's never done as governor or Lt. Governor.
Perry: "Yeah I stepped in it man, yeah it was embarrassing of course it was."
It was a quick effort at public damage control. But in private -- it's clear his operatives have to be scrambling, asking what comes next. Until last night,, no matter how poor his debate performance or how lackluster he fared in the polls, Perry was a fundraising machine. His first fundraising report at the beginning of October showed he pulled in more money than any other GOP candidate - and set up a solid cushion to cover television ads and campaign travel to the early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
But now -less than 2 months to go before Election Day in those states -- the Perry campaign will be trying to determine whether last night's fumble will staunch the flow of money needed to make successful runs in those primaries. Lose in each of those three states, especially South Carolina, and there won't be any more money or momentum to continue a campaign.
Just seconds after Perry's lapse - one reporter asked whether we just the Perry campaign die on stage. Based on the governor's post debate appearance - if that's the case -- he's ready to go down swinging.
Perry: "The bottom line is I may have forgotten energy, but I haven't forgotten my conservative principles."
A clear swipe at GOP frontrunner - and expert debater - Mitt Romney.