Since he “stepped in it” with his freeze-up during Wednesday night’s debate, GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry has been in full spin mode.
He’s hit just about every broadcast media outlet on the planet (plus his e-mail list of supporters), topped off by Thursday night’s appearance on CBS’s "Late Show With David Letterman."
The message: I’m human. We all make mistakes. Sure, I’m not a slick debater and speaker like Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. I can make fun of myself. And oh, by the way, if you could slip another five bucks into my campaign coffers, that would be great.
Asked by the Associated Press if his debate blunder might force him out of the Republican presidential field, Governor Perry was quick to respond in his typical folksy way.
"Oh, shoot, no," he said. "This ain't a day for quitting nothing."
Is the full-court media press working?
“I can’t remember a candidate who has tackled a campaign crisis so forcefully and so strongly,” veteran Republican media consultant Alex Castellanos (no particular fan of Perry’s) told Jill Lawrence of The Daily Beast.
Republican political professionals can argue it either way.
“His campaign is effectively over,” Steve Schmidt, who managed the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, told The Washington Post. “This was not a singular episode. It is the grand finale in a ruinous series of public appearances.”
But Sara Fagen, former Bush White House political director, sees a narrow chance for Perry to find a way back.
“His only option, at this point, is to convince primary voters that Romney is not acceptable,” she told the Post. “Perhaps he’ll have enough money to do that in a state or two, but it’s getting harder with each passing day.” Indeed, some of his funders now are pulling out.
But it’s really too soon to tell. The next few polls and, perhaps more important, his performance at Saturday night’s debate at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., will tell.
As part of his comeback strategy, Perry is using his substantial war chest to blanket the airwaves with ads.
“A source tracking the early state media buys said Perry’s campaign is currently spending more than $400,000 a week on television and radio advertising in Iowa, presenting a determinedly folksy appeal,” reports Politico.com. “He’s also spending more than $100,000 a week on television advertising in New Hampshire and more than that blanketing Granite State radio.”
Still, all the money in the world can’t buy back those 45 excruciating seconds when he couldn’t remember the third of the three federal departments he says he’d like to eliminate. Those are Commerce, Education, and (the one he forgot, ironically enough for a man from a big oil state) Energy.
So absent a time machine, Perry is doing what he can with Texas grit and self-deprecating humor. On the Letterman show Thursday night, he offered these “Top Ten Rick Perry Excuses” for forgetting. Video here.
10. "Actually, there were three reasons I messed up last night. One was the nerves, two was the headache, and three was, and three, uh, uh. Oops."
9. "I don't know what you're talking about. I think things went well."
8. "Hey, I was up late last night watching 'Dancing With the Stars.' "
7. "I thought the debate was tonight."
6. "Hey, listen. You try concentrating with Mitt Romney smiling at you. That is one handsome dude."
5. "Uh, El Niño?"
4. "I had a five-hour energy drink six hours before the debate."
3. "I really hoped to get on my favorite talk show, but instead I ended up here."
2. "Hey, I wanted to help take the heat off my buddy Herman Cain."
1. "I just learned Justin Bieber is my father."