Video: Oops! Perry tries to contain debate damage

  1. Closed captioning of: Oops! Perry tries to contain debate damage

    >>> now we'll take a turn and talk about politics and the fallout from texas governor 's oops moment at the cnbc debate wednesday night. chuck todd has more on this. good morning to you.

    >> good morning, ann. the campaign to become the chief conservative challenger to mitt romney has turned simply into a game of survival, as rick perry and herman cain are spending more time apologizing and everything mia culpas than focusing on making the case against romney.

    >> i would do away with the education --

    >> what do you do when everybody is talking about this?

    >> commerce and, let's see, i can't, the third one i can't, sorry. oops.

    >> reporter: you do this?

    >> here to present tonight's top ten list, top ten rick perry , come on out, rick. number six.

    >> hey, listen, you try concentrating with mitt romney smiling at you. that is one handsome dude.

    >> reporter: capping off a day of doing this.

    >> that i stepped in it last night. people make mistakes when they debate. i readily admit i may not be the best debater. style over substance certainly happened. i had a brain freeze as you said.

    >> reporter: and your wife comes out and says this.

    >> everybody forgets something every now and then but he remembered our anniversary last week.

    >> reporter: even before the debate it's been a stunning reversal of fortune for the former republican front -runner whose support steadily declined after performances.

    >> was it before. liberty or die, victory or death, bring it.

    >> reporter: some republicans say perry 's campaign is all but over.

    >> everyone always gets a mulligan or two when playing golf but after a while when you take too many of them people come to the conclusion you're just not a very good golfer.

    >> reporter: perry 's gaffe even overshadowed for a day the allegations of sexual harassment toward herman cain who remains defiant.

    >> over the last couple of weeks, i've been through hell. now here's the good news. it didn't kill me or slow us down one bit.

    >> reporter: but cain still had to do his own damage control after this reference to former house speaker nancy pelosi .

    >> princess nancy sent it to committee and it stay there.

    >> reporter: on thursday he grudgingly apologized.

    >> i apologize for calling her princess pelosi if that's the biggest story for the day, a poll jis.

    >> reporter: why do you apologize? is it insensitive to call her that?

    >> so you all will stop asking me about that.

    >> for perry , this is the last debate he's committed to even though there are five on the calendar next month.

    >> chuck todd who has a very interesting job. thank you for keeping tabs on all of this.

updated 11/11/2011 7:49:59 AM ET 2011-11-11T12:49:59

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry tried Thursday to convince the country he was in on the joke after his disastrous debate performance while even his supporters worried aloud about the damage to his already hobbling campaign.

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Perry didn't try to sugarcoat the fallout from his minute-long stammer that crystalized concerns that he is not up for the job. Instead, he spent the day on a media blitz trying to laugh about the Wednesday evening debate where he struggled embarrassingly to remember one of the three federal departments he wants to abolish, ending with a grinning, "Oops."

He even appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman to offer the night's Top Ten List of excuses for the debate.

"Hey, listen. You try concentrating with Mitt Romney smiling at you. That is one handsome dude," Perry chuckled during his segment with the comedian.

The minute-long exchange was replayed throughout the day and into the evening on television, and it has already been labeled one of the worst debate blunders in recent memory.

Perry gaffe overshadows Cain, Romney

"That's pretty brutal isn't it?" Perry said on Fox News, blitzing the airwaves hoping to provide alternative video. "I stepped in it. I think some of it is still stuck on my feet."

He doesn't have much time to clean up. There are fewer than eight weeks until the first nominating contests start and voters are looking for the best candidate to go head-to-head against President Barack Obama.

"It's something he needs to address pretty quickly," said uncommitted Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an early primary state. But he said Perry has time and a key survival tool: money.

Perry reported some $15 million banked during his most recent fundraising period. His advisers said they had enough cash on hand to get them through South Carolina.

If Perry isn't able to log some victories by that point, he's got bigger problems than a 54-second piece of an otherwise forgettable debate.

Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career (on this page)

Perry acknowledged it was a tough moment as he flailed during the televised debate. In the episode, Perry said he would eliminate three federal agencies, starting with Commerce and Education. He struggled to name the third and had to point to Energy later in the debate to round out his trio. Perry squirmed while his opponents and the audience laughed and debate moderator John Harwood incredulously said, "You can't name the third one?"

"It wasn't even on the tip of my tongue," Perry said.

'I hate debates'
Perry has been the first to acknowledge he's a terrible debater but has hoped he would improve.

"I hate debates," he said in Des Moines last week. "I used to hate spinning in aircrafts. ... Finally I did it, and I did it enough that I finally got pretty good at it. So hold on, maybe I'll get better at debates, too."

Maybe it won't matter.

Story: 'Think twice,' defamation lawyer hired by Cain warns

Perry is a tough campaigner. He has never lost and election — and has avoided debating in state races — and is the longest serving governor of Texas. He is a has proven a charismatic campaigner in smaller settings common in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — three states that start the nominating process and three states where he must do well.

Yet some Republicans, even prominent Perry supporters, were wondering whether the Texan can survive his latest misstep.

"As far as his character, I haven't waivered on that," state Rep. Peter Silva, a member of Perry's New Hampshire steering committee, said Thursday, but added: "You can't say this is a good thing. He shot himself in the foot."

Video: Perry’s tries to redeem himself after ‘oops’ moment (on this page)

Others weren't as generous.

"It's over for him," said Steve Schmidt, a Republican political strategist who ran Sen. John McCain's 2008 campaign.

But in an interview with The Associated Press early Thursday, Perry said the moment wouldn't force him from the race.

"Oh, shoot, no," Perry said. "This ain't a day for quitting nothing."

Stuggling campaign
Still, the extended exchange will provide easy fodder for attack ads.

On Capitol Hill, Perry's brain freeze was widely regarded as a grave development for his already struggling campaign. In private, Republicans were wondering if they had just seen the beginning of the end for Perry.

How the Perry camp hopes to turn lemons into lemonade

Sen. James Inhofe, a Perry backer, phoned his colleagues to downplay the exchange and called Perry's supporters to try to stop an exodus.

"He's a human being, he just proved that last night," the Oklahoman said. "Right now, he's joking around about it and it seems to be favorably received from a lot of people I've heard from."

Yet Inhofe was still cringing.

"It was very embarrassing to Rick Perry and to others who certainly supported him, and I'm sure that many of his Republican opponents are rejoicing," said Inhofe.

Video: Perry: ‘I stepped in it last night’ (on this page)

Perry did even worse in an informal straw poll at a debate-watching party hosted by prominent New Hampshire conservative, Jennifer Horn, a recent Republican congressional candidate who previously backed former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's now-abandoned bid.

Horn said that of about 40 Republicans at the party, only about four said they supported Perry before the debate began. That already-small number was cut in half after the debate.

"That's not a scientific sample. But that does show that people are influenced by what happens at these debates," Horn said. "That was highly unfortunate, especially for people in New Hampshire who know how strong he can be in person. It was difficult to watch."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Rick Perry

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  1. Rick Perry, then the Agricultural Commissioner of Texas, applauds with other officials during a 1992 event for President George H. Bush, second from left. Perry began his political career in the Texas House of Representatives in 1985 and served three terms before becoming the Agricultural Commissioner which he held from 1991- 1999. (Marcy Nighswander / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. President-elect George W. Bush gets a hug from Texas Lt. Gov. Rick Perry following his resignation announcement in December 2000. Perry was sworn in as governor of Texas later that day. (Paul Buck / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Perry married his childhood sweetheart, Anita Thigpen, at left, in 1982. They have two children, daughter Sydney and a son, Griffin, at right. (Harry Cabluck / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Perry fields questions about the planned Trans Texas Corridor in 2002. The 145 billion-dollar program that would have added highways, rail and data lines was criticized for being a 'land grab' and a potentially lucrative deal for the privately owned company Cintra. After much debate, the project was killed in 2010. (D.J. Peters / Tyler Morning Telegraph via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. President George W. Bush takes the stage to address a Republican fundraiser for Perry in June 2002 in Houston. (Tim Sloan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Perry debates Democrat Tony Sanchez during the 2002 governor's race. Perry easily won the election, his first of three. (Tony Gutierrez / Pool via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Perry (center) attends a memorial service for the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia. NASA Mission Control lost contact with the Space Shuttle Columbia during the reentry phase on February 1, 2003 and later learned that the shuttle had broken up over Texas. All seven astronauts on board were lost. (Bill Ingalls / NASA via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Perry, center, casts the votes on behalf of the delegates from his state during the 2004 Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Tim Sloan / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Perry signs an abortion consent bill in June 2005. The bill restricted abortion late in a pregnancy and required minor girls to get parental consent for an abortion. (LM Otero / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Perry announces a special legislative session in June 2005. He vetoed the state's $35.3 billion public education budget and called lawmakers back to the Capitol to finally find a solution to the school finance dilemma. In 2001, Perry set a state record for the use of the veto, rejecting legislation 82 times. By 2005, he had used his veto power 133 times. (Thomas Terry / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Perry outlines his border security plan during a news conference in June 2006. Accusing the federal government of failing the state, Perry toured South Texas, selling his $125 million state plan for "neighborhood watch" surveillance cameras and better-funded border sheriffs' and police departments. Perry has opposed the creation of the physical barrier along the Mexico-U.S. border. (Mark Lambie / El Paso Times via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Perry made national headlines when he issued an executive order requiring the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV), an anti-cancer vaccine, for sixth-grade girls starting in September 2008. Some conservatives argued that the vaccine promoted promiscuity and took power out of the hands of parents. (Harry Cabluck / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Perry attends a naturalization ceremony in 2007 where more than 1,000 Austin residents representing 85 countries took the Oath of Allegiance to become United States citizens. Perry supports the Arizona immigration ruling, the most restrictive anti-illegal immigration measure in America. (Taylor Jones / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Republican 2008 presidential hopeful and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani appears with Texas Governor Rick Perry during a campaign stop in Ft. Myers, Florida. When Perry joined the Texas House of Representatives in 1984, he was a Democrat and supported Al Gore in the 1988 presidential election. In 1989, he switched parties and became a Republican. (Daniel Barry / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain waits to speak with Texas Gov. Rick Perry in Round Rock, Texas, in 2008. Perry initially endorsed Giuliani for president but after the former New York City mayor bowed out of the race, Perry put his support behind McCain. (Ben Sklar / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Perry speaks appears on the screen at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. During college, Perry was a member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets and served in the Air Force upon graduating. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. President George W. Bush participates in a briefing on Hurricane Ike damage with Perry in 2008. The storm resulted in the largest evacuation of Texas in the state's history. Later, during Hurricane Rita in 2005, Perry ordered contraflow lane reversal on several major highways to aid in the evacauation. (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Perry speaks to the crowd during a "Don't Mess With Texas" tea party rally in Austin in April 2009. He was criticized after he said after the event that Texans might want to secede from the United States. "If Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that?" he said. "But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot." (Harry Cabluck / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Perry listens as President Barack Obama addresses the Fort Hood community during a memorial service for the soldiers and civilians killed in a shooting rampage there on November 5, 2009. (Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison share a light moment during a Texas GOP gubernatorial debate in 2010. Perry easily defeated Hutchison in the hard-fought primary. (Louis Deluca / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Piper Palin and musician Ted Nugent appear on stage during a rally for Perry's re-election in 2010. A few weeks prior, Perry invited his friend and musician Ted Nugent to perform at his inaugural gala, where Nugent appeared onstage wearing a t-shirt with the Confederate flag, (Gary Miller / FilmMagic) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Perry, a strong supporter of gun rights, fires a six-shooter pistol during a promotional event with Texas Motor Speedway in April 2010. (Tom Pennington / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Perry, center, sings his alma mater's fight song before an NCAA college football game between Texas Tech and Texas A&M, in 2010. A graduate of Texas A&M, Perry was a member of the "Aggie Yell Leaders", or male cheerleaders, elected by popular vote of the student body. (Dave Einsel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Perry embraces his wife Anita after being elected to his third term by defeating Democratic challenger Bill White in 2010. (Ben Sklar / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Perry signs copies of his second book, "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington" during a stop in Tyler, Texas in 2010. (Jaime R. Carrero / Tyler Morning Telegraph via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, surrounded by his family, waves to the crowd after announcing his run for president, Aug. 13, 2011, in Charleston, S.C. (Alice Keeney / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. During a televised GOP debate on CNBC, Rick Perry struggles to remember what three government agencies he had promised to shut down if elected president, as Teexas Rep. Ron Paul watches. Eight candidates took part in the 'Your Money, Your Vote: The Republican Presidential Debate' at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, on Nov. 9. 2011. Later Perry admitted he had 'stepped in it.' (Jeff Kowalsky / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry pauses during a news conference in North Charleston, S.C., on Jan. 19, 2012, where he announced he is suspending his campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich. His son Griffin is at left. (David Goldman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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