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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.

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.

The next few days will shed light on whether voters care about the misstep — and punish him for it.

Over the past two weeks, Perry has sought to prove he’s still a credible challenger to Mitt Romney by rolling out detailed policy proposals. But he’s found himself dogged by suggestions that he had been drinking or taking drugs when he gave an animated speech in New Hampshire. It went viral online, prompting Perry to state that he was not, in fact, under the influence of a substance.

NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” did a Perry parody last weekend that was widely viewed.

In recent days, the candidate started to take his message directly to the voters by running sunny biographical television ads in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s an effort to reintroduce himself to Republican primary voters in a safer setting that circumvents the news media.

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