You've seen it a thousand times since Wednesday night. Gov. Rick Perry, primed with a talking point about the three Federal Departments he would shut down as President named the Departments of Commerce and Education and then couldn't remember the name of the third Department.
One of the other contestants suggested the EPA, but that wasn't it.
John Harwood pressed the issue: "You can't name the third one?
Perry repeated the Department of Education; fumbled around for the Department of Commerce, and finally surrendered:
… and let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops."
So, Perry can't debate. So what.
Here's his problem: Voters have precious few data points on which to decide for whom they will vote for President. News reports (which they largely don't trust). Advertisements. Mail. Phone calls. And, for a very, very few in the totality of the popular vote, having seen and/or met the candidate somewhere on the campaign trail.
Being able to participate in a cogent manner during a debate is a minimum entry requirement for being considered a legitimate candidate for President. As Howard Dean said on CNBC yesterday, "If you can't deal with John Harwood, how can you deal with Vladimir Putin?"
Dean, you may remember, flushed his campaign down a Des Moines toilet when, in a burst of exuberance about having come in a disappointing third in the 2004 Democratic Iowa Caucuses, he let loose with what has become known as the "Dean Scream."
Being a great debater doesn't guarantee the nomination. If it were so, Newt would be hiring staff to manage the convention in Florida next August.
A sailor entering the SEAL training program has to be able to swim. It doesn't mean he will make it through, but it is a minimum necessary skill.
This was, I believe, Perry's fifth debate. He has been awful in all of them. But Wednesday night he totally collapsed.
Perry has hired new staff over the past 10 days or so. He has brought in Joe Allbaugh who managed George W. Bush's 2000 campaign in addition to several other big time, and well-respected operatives.
Thus, the original campaign staff - who went to Perry after they left Newt Gingrich's campaign last Spring - has been "layered."
In political parlance being "layered" has a specific meaning: You still have your title, but someone else is doing your job.
Is Perry done for? Yes. But, I think he was finished before the CNBC debate.
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