Gone in 54 Seconds

How do you take the heat off a candidate facing multiple charges of sexual harassment? Ask Rick Perry.


Eileen Smith

WHO KNEW THAT SO MUCH DAMAGE could be done in less than a minute? In Wednesday night’s CNBC Republican debate, Rick Perry managed to seal his fate as this election’s darling-turned-deadbeat, also known as the deadly Curse of Fred Thompson. In an uncomfortable moment for the entire country, Perry was unable to name the third government agency he wants to abolish as part of his strategy to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential to our lives as possible. He could name the Departments of Commerce and Education but couldn’t quite come up with the Department of Energy, which is the one he rails against the most on the campaign trail. How could that happen? That’s his schtick. That’s like him forgetting that he grew up in Paint Creek.

This debate was perhaps Perry’s last best chance to reclaim his fleeting frontrunner status and take Herman Cain’s coveted spot in the top three. Two of the women accusing Cain of sexual harassment went public this week. This was Perry’s opportunity to attract disillusioned Cain supporters and Tea Party loyalists, and to convince primary voters that he’s still got it. Oops.

When the media is writing your obituary—instead of Herman Cain’s—before the debate’s even over, it’s time to administer last rites and let the campaign die peacefully. And who better to rise from the ashes than Newt Gingrich, a man who eats the media for breakfast and the Fed for lunch?

Eye on Newt

It’s not that Gingrich has gotten any better. It’s that all his fellow candidates have gotten so much worse. He may be the smartest guy on the stage, but he’s also the most sneering and condescending. However, if everyone else around you is imploding, you just have to wait until the clock runs out. Apparently that’s exactly what he’s doing. On CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight Gingrich compared himself to an oversized turtle. “The bunny rabbit runs by and falls asleep. The tortoise just keeps coming,” he said. “So hopefully in this game, Mitt Romney will be the bunny rabbit, and I’ll be the tortoise. That would all work out perfectly.” I believe Romney’s the hare in this scenario but bunny rabbit is more insulting.  

In the Real Clear Politics national polling average, released before the debate, Cain remains in the lead with 25 percent of the vote, Romney’s in second with 23 percent, Gingrich is in third with 12 percent. Perry was in fourth with 10 percent (“was” being the operative word—if this keeps up, Ron Paul will be polling ahead of Perry). In fable-speak, this means Cain is actually the hare, Romney’s still the bunny rabbit, Gingrich is the wily tortoise and Perry is the sloth. Although Gingrich is about as electable as Perry—and that’s not a compliment anymore—it looks like primary voters are giving him a second look.

Meanwhile a new Gallup poll reports that President Obama is now tied with “Generic Republican.” Yes, the party’s patent has already expired.

Leave Them Laughing

Following the debate, the Perry camp went into hyperdrive damage control mode, booking the candidate on the morning shows and even The Late Night Show with David Letterman to present the Top 10 Rick Perry Excuses. (Personal favorite: “You try concentrating with Mitt Romney smiling at you. That is one handsome dude.”) But let’s face it: The No. 1 reason Rick Perry’s campaign appears all but dead is…no, not maple syrup…it’s Rick Perry.