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.
As I have told you before, Perry was like the backup quarterback whom the stadium crowd believed was better than the starting QB and clamored for him to be put into the game.
Once he got his chance, he couldn't hit a receiver and couldn't move the team. The cheers turned to boos and the clamor was for the original starter to be put back in.
Perry came riding into the race on his snow-white Palomino and is going to return to Austin sitting on the back of a chuck wagon.
Mitt Romney appears to be unstoppable at this point. But before you bet the house on Romney remember at this point four years ago Rudy Giuliani was sitting atop the GOP polls with about 30 percent; Fred Thompson and John McCain were about tied at about 16 percent; Mitt Romney was on their heels with 12 percent; with Mike Huckabee (8%) and Ron Paul (3%) rounding out the pack.
Perry does have some $14 million in the bank which means he doesn't have to go home tomorrow. Or in December. Or in January.
If I were advising Perry I would pull up stakes in Iowa and head to Florida where my cash advantage puts me on an even plane with Romney - the only other candidate with the cash-on-hand necessary to run a fully expressed campaign in Florida.
Speaking of advising campaigns, if Newt asked me I would tell him to head for South Carolina and try to stop Romney from running the table in the first three contests (Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina) which would probably allow him to wrap up the contest on January 31 in the Sunshine State.
There reality for Perry is, it's over. Politico quoted me in an extremely rare two-word response yesterday:
Asked how damaging the Texan's gaffe was, longtime GOP strategist Rich Galen said: "deadly."
And Romney's stiffest competition?
"Obama," said Galen.