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July 02, 2013 5:24 PM Oops, Will He Do It Again?

By Ed Kilgore

Since we are talking about Texas and Rick Perry’s frustrated effort to get a bill through his Republican legislature shutting down all but a handful of the state’s abortion providers, it’s worth noting that the swaggering king of low-road economic development policies and high-profile theocratic gestures is going to let the world know his future political plans on Monday. Oh goody.

It’s assumed he’ll announce whether or not he’s running for a fourth full gubernatorial term next year, and the betting (as it was four years ago) is that he won’t. But this time, if he doesn’t, it’s also assumed he’ll prepare for another presidential bid in 2016.

As you probably know, Perry ‘12 has already established itself as one of the most disastrously inept presidential campaigns in recent memory (which is particularly interesting given the hype generated by his campaign team going into the race as the smartest gang of wonky-hacky political operatives ever). But short memories and “Game Change”-style campaign journalism being what they are, there’s already a revisionist history aborning that the Perry campaign fell apart entirely in just a few excrutiating moments:

Most infamous of all was Perry’s “oops” debate moment in November 2011, when he failed to remember a third federal agency he’d like to eliminate. Washington Post reporter Dan Balz reveals more about the moment and its impact in his forthcoming book, “Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America….”
“It’s like people describe earthquakes,” Nelson Warfield told Balz (Warfield was a Perry adviser at the time and was in Perry’s debate green room at the time of the debate). “The first shake and people go, ‘Oh shit, it’s an earthquake.’ But real bad earthquakes keep going. So it just kept going. He just couldn’t get out of it and the ‘oops’ put a little cherry on top. Honestly, it’s sort of like a collision. I can only remember bits and pieces. I remember my head hitting the computer top.”

Having spent a few moments of my own frantically scratching the surface of a TV monitor in a futile effort to seize the throat of a politician who was blowing up before my eyes, I can understand the sentiment. But truth is Perry’s downward trajectory really began at an earlier debate two months earlier when he let the entire field—and most notably Mitt Romney—get to his right on the immigration issue. This mis-positioning haunted him all the way down the road to perdition, and his “oops” moment in November was hardly the last time the feral red-meat-eating cowboy who excited conservatives when he announced his candidacy at a RedState gathering disappointed those looking for a “true conservative” alternative to Romney.

I can understand why Perry would want to give it another try. If he does, I bet nobody gets to his right on anything, and he’ll hire whoever his mentor George W. Bush retained to edit his speeches down to one- and two-syllable words.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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