Can Perry possibly recover after debate gaffe?

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on November 10, 2011 at 8:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 12 at 11:34 AM

DALLAS - So after "oops," what direction does Gov. Rick Perry go to try and reset his struggling campaign?

Perry's debate gaffe, in which he couldn't name the three government agencies he'd abolish, left his campaign, already at about 10 percent in polls, reeling.

Perry's recovery strategy began on all the morning TV shows Thursday, first with self-deprecating humor.

"They know there's not a perfect candidate that's been made yet, and I'm kind of proof positive of it every day," Perry told ABC's Good Morning America.

The campaign also sent an e-mail acknowledging he "stepped in it," and reminding voters other candidates goof, too. Like then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama in 2008, on how many states he'd visited.

"I've now been in 57 states, I think one left to go," Obama told an Oregon audience in May 2008.

Austin political consultant Reggie Bashur, who advises the Perry campaign, said the goal is humor and humility.

"Making fun of it, making light of it for what it was - it was a miscue," Bashur said. "And I think he does that today, and tomorrow he goes back on his winning message."

To err is human, to forgive divine.

And for Perry, the next step is visiting with voters who think a lot about divinity - Christian conservatives in Iowa.

A new mailer targeting Christian conservatives started landing in their mailboxes Thursday.

"I think he's spending a lot of time there, he's a great one-on-one campaigner," Bashur said.

His campaign will bolster his message with big television-advertisement spending.

The goal is to cast Perry as the alternative for the 75 percent who don't want Mitt Romney as the others drop out.

But Perry's big gaffe reinforced an existing negative impression from several bad debates that he's ill prepared to be president.

All the money, staff on the ground and retail campaigning might not overcome that, according to University of Texas at Arlington political science professor Allan Saxe.

"It's a possibility that he could be resilient and come back," Saxe said. "But frankly, it's doubtful."

Perry is to appear on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman Thursday night. He will appear in another debate Saturday night in South Carolina on foreign policy.

Then it's off to Iowa for campaigning next week.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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