BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Rick Perry says he "stepped in it" when he couldn't remember the third federal department he would abolish if elected, but insisted the debate blunder wouldn't force him out of the Republican presidential field.
"Oh, shoot, no," Perry told the Associated Press on Thursday morning, the day after making the error during a GOP debate. Asked whether his campaign, which is struggling to regain traction, could survive, Perry replied: "This ain't a day for quitting nothing."
Perry spent much of Thursday trying to contain the damage by poking fun at himself and minimizing the value of oratory skills.
"We've got a debater in chief right now that's not working out so well," said the Texas governor, taking a shot at President Barack Obama. "We've got to focus on the substance of what's killing America, and it's Washington, D.C., spending too much money and creating too much debt."
But even as the Perry rehabilitation tour went into full swing, Republicans inside and outside his campaign were skeptical of his prospects for survival.
"We're in one of those stop-the-fights, throw-in-the-white-towel moments," said Alex Castellanos, a Republican consultant who supported Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential race but is not affiliated with any of the 2012 campaigns. "It was just brutal. It turns out that being president is a very hard job. I think Perry's taken himself out of consideration now."
Perry began Thursday with a whirlwind tour of morning talk shows and moved on to the Late Show With David Letterman in New York, making light of his gaffe and trying to combat the perception that his series of debate stumbles makes him ill-suited for the rigors of a presidential campaign.
The list, presented by Perry:
10. Actually, there were three reasons I messed up last night. One was the nerves, and two was the headache and three … um … uh … oops.
9. I don't know what you're taking about — I think things went well.
8. I was up late last night watching Dancing with the Stars.
7. I thought the debate was tonight.
6. You try concentrating with Mitt Romney smiling at you. That is one handsome dude!
5. Uh, El Niño?
4. I had a 5-hour Energy drink six hours before the debate.
3. I really hoped it would get me on my favorite talk show, but instead, I ended up here.
2. I wanted to help take the heat off my buddy Herman Cain.
1. I just learned Justin Bieber is my father.
Some of Perry's backers rushed to his defense.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, one of his most prominent surrogates, issued a statement that said Perry is still "the right person" to defeat Obama. "He's got a strong track record in Texas, and he knows how to create jobs and get America working again," Jindal said.
Reaction to the gaffe, which took place during a televised debate in the Detroit suburbs, came on a day when the intensity of the GOP presidential contest notched up considerably, with less than two months until voting begins in the early-nominating states.
With yet another debate scheduled for Saturday in South Carolina, the two front-runners in the field — Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, and Georgia businessman Herman Cain — remained in Michigan for a busy day of retail politicking.
Romney, rallying a couple of hundred supporters a few miles from the Detroit suburb where he grew up, ducked questions about Perry's performance, saying only that he was pleased with his own performance. "I've got to worry more about me than anybody else," Romney said.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
No news conference yet for Cain accusers
WASHINGTON — The lawyer for one of the women who have accused Herman Cain of sexually harassing them in the late 1990s said Thursday afternoon that she has been unable to coordinate a joint press conference with three other women who have made similar accusations.
Joel P. Bennett, who represents Karen Kraushaar, said that his client does not intend to talk to the media or to authorize him to talk further until — and unless — the other women agree to come forward together to present what she said would be "a body of evidence" of Cain's alleged misdeeds.
"She will have no further comment until that time, and she and I will not be granting any interviews to the media before any such press conference," Bennett told reporters during a brief news conference outside his Georgetown office here.