Reporting Pat Kessler
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Wednesday night’s Republican debate included a moment that made a lot of people cringe.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry blanked when he was talking about eliminating three government agencies.
Perry spent Thursday on damage control, trying to shrug off the freeze as minor mistake. But it wasn’t like forgetting the name of an obscure foreign leader, which has happened in other presidential debates and interviews.
This is one of the main parts of the Perry campaign, and public relations experts said it’s going to be tough to recover.
“A gaffe like that feeds into an already existing narrative,” said Brian McClung, a public relations consultant who owns McClung Communications & Public Relations in St. Paul.
McClung, who worked for Gov. and Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, said Perry’s performance could seriously affect his campaign.
“It becomes like the Howard Dean scream,” he said, “Where you can’t get away from it. It’s a moment in time where you see a politician and you say, ‘What the heck just happened there?’”
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura had his share of media moments, and still does. His former communications director, John Wodele, had some advice.
“You just can’t be too hard on yourself,” he said.
Wodele, who runs the St. Paul consulting company Wodele Creative Enterprises, said what happened to Perry happens to regular people every day, just not on national television. And the candidate needs to move on quickly.
“It happens. It shouldn’t happen in a debate where you are running for president of the United States. You don’t want it to happen. But it happens,” Wodele said.
Political candidates can’t really prepare for unexpected Perry moments, but McClung said they can control how they react.
“Have a sense of humor about it. Go out there, make fun of yourself. Try to enjoy it,” he said.
And by the way: The third federal agency that Perry wants to abolish, but couldn’t remember? The Department of Energy.