Perry insists that his “marathon” campaign is still very much in the game as he recalibrates his efforts on South Carolina and Iowa, but he’s deluding himself. Where did the Perry campaign go wrong? Bloomberg columnist and Washington sage Al Hunt believes that “small stuff” generally ends presidential campaigns, not policy mistakes or attacks by opponents. As an example, Hunt offers Perry’s failed 2012 campaign in which he embarrassed himself at a debate when he couldn’t name the third government agency he would cut as president (“Oops!”). Other Hunt examples of “small stuff” campaign disaster: Gerald Ford’s 1976 debate gaffe about there being no “Soviet domination” in Eastern Europe and Mitt Romney’s 2012 harangue about the “47 percent.”
Alas, it take more than a single campaign event, press expose or unfortunate utterance to throttle a campaign. There are just too many variables governing defeat and victory. As the loose-mouthed Trump campaign demonstrates daily, “gaffes” have no superpower to scuttle a popular candidate, especially if the candidate remains unrepentant about his gaffes. (Ronald Reagan was similarly unrepentant about his. Joe Biden is almost as good.) The best marker of a healthy campaign—or at least one that will make it through the primaries—is not the size of its bank account but the success with which it replenishes its coffers as it spends. Money is blood. Perry, as noted above, has flunked this test.