Perry Gaffe Overshadows Defiant Cain, Romney Scrutiny - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Perry Gaffe Overshadows Defiant Cain, Romney Scrutiny

MSNBC.COM - A campaign blunder by Texas Gov. Rick Perry who stole the spotlight at Wednesday night's presidential debate.

While a CNBC debate featured the most scrutiny to date of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's economic plans, and was highlighted by Herman Cain's first debate appearance since the emergence of sexual harassment against him, a moment in which Perry admitted he had forgotten one of his answers about which three federal agencies he would eliminate threatened to crystallize Republicans' concerns about his candidacy.

Turning to Texas Rep. Ron Paul to boast, Perry said: "I'll tell you: it's three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: commerce, education and, the --uh -- what's the third one there? ... commerce, education and the uh, the uh..." before being interrupted by a question. "The third agency of government I would do away with -- education, the, uh, commerce, and let's see -- I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry."

He followed up in a subsequent answer: "By the way, that was the Department of Energy I was reaching for a while ago."

It was a jarring moment for Perry, for whom poor debate showings have defined his campaign; his poll numbers declined after the August launch of his campaign in part due to shaky performances, tonight's forum offered an opportunity for him to resuscitate his campaign. Critics have noted that his stamina in the two-hour-long debates seems to wane.

The moment could underscore concerns about Perry and whether he could hold his own onstage as a serious presidential candidate.

Perry emerged in the spin room following the debate to engage in damage control. He said he was "glad I had my boots on cuz I sure stepped in it tonight...Bottom line is, I may have forgotten energy, but I haven't forgotten my conservative principles."

To a large degree, Perry's gaffe overshadowed the defiant moment earlier in the debate when Herman Cain defended himself from the harassment allegations that besieged his campaign.

Cain had sought to put an end to the issue with a press conference on Tuesday, but the possibility of one of his accusers, Karen Kraushaar, soon publicly detailing her allegations against Cain -- along with the possibility that one of his GOP competitors might use the allegations to tarnish Cain's campaign -- all but guarantee the issue remains a current one on the campaign trail. 

"The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations," Cain said to wild cheers in the early moments of the debate. "This country's looking for leadership, and this is why a lot of people, despite what has happened over the last nine days ... the voters have voted with their dollars, and they are saying we they don't care about character assassination -- they care about leadership and getting this economy going and all the other problems that we face." Click here to read more

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