The two big takeaways from last night’s Republican presidential debate are universally-acknowledged: Rick Perry’s embarrassing gaffe probably puts the last nail in the coffin of his campaign and the sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain have earned him huge sympathy from primary voters. Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney also shined, but Perry’s forgetting of the third agency he’d scrap will dominate the news coverage of the race.
The allegations against Herman Cain were the media’s obsession going into the debate. It was clear from the audience’s booing of the moderators for bringing it up and intense applause to his answer that the allegations have actually brought him sympathy. In fact, Cain’s seen a huge fundraising boost.
Primary voters don’t seem to be buying into the credibility of the women alleging that Cain harassed them. It has come out that one of the accusers has a history of accusing her bosses of misconduct. CBS Atlanta asked a private investigator to use voice analysis software to detect deceit in the addresses by Cain and his public accuser, Sharon Bialek. The operator, who said the software has an accuracy rate of 95% and is used by nearly 70 law enforcement agencies, was confident that Cain was telling the truth and Bialek was not. It’s possible that the drama of Bialek’s press conference has yet to register in the polls, but as of right now, he remains the front-runner nationally and in Iowa and South Carolina.
The moment everyone is talking about and will continue to talk about is Rick Perry’s huge slip-up. He had some strong moments in the debate, like when he talked about planting a flag that says, “America is open for business again.” That was instantly forgotten when he passionately talked about cutting government and said he’d cut three agencies, naming the Education and Commerce Departments as his targets and forgetting the third on his list. It made for an incredibly awkward minute. He later said that the agency he forgot was the Energy Department.
Political science expert Larry Sabato tweeted that it was “the most devastating moment of any modern primary debate.” Nate Silver tweeted that Perry’s stock on Intrade fell from 8% to 4% in just a few minutes. When Perry entered the spin room, he said, “I’m sure glad I had my boots on because I sure stepped in it out there.” Polls show him in sixth place in Iowa and in fourth place in South Carolina. This is simply a mistake that his campaign could not afford and it is likely fatal to his chances of a comeback.
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