It didn't matter that Governor Perry was coming off of back surgery at the time, and thus was "playing hurt" - chronic pain has been known to affect one's concentration, especially if you're standing up on a debate stage for an hour and a half - this near-minute of dead air did him in, both for 2012 and for all time.
Is that fair? Of course not. Was the late Gerald Ford - a multi-sport athlete in his youth - the klutz of Chevy Chase's indelible Saturday Night Live depictions after his one stumble down the stairs of Air Force One? Not at all. But the low-information voters that make up the overwhelming majority of the American electorate, and vote as the media instructs them to, are dominated by the most superficial of factors - remember Mitt Romney's dog on the car roof, "the 47%," and "binders full of women"? - and thus Americans today remember President Ford as a buffoon, and they know Rick Perry as the guy who made George W. Bush look and sound like a Rhodes Scholar. All because of that one-time brain fart.
-Me, four months ago.
And so the journey ends:
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry said Friday that he was dropping out of the 2016 race for the Republican presidential nomination.
"I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States," Perry told conservatives in a speech at the 44th Eagle Council in St. Louis, Missouri.
The two-day event is organized by longtime conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. Five other candidates are scheduled to speak at the event.
"We have a tremendous field, probably the greatest group of men and women in a generation," the Lone Star State's longest-serving governor said. "I step aside knowing our party is in good hands — and as long as we listen to the grassroots, the cause of conservatism will be too.
"I share this news with no regrets," Perry continued. "It has been a privilege and an honor to travel this country, to speak with the American people about their hopes and dreams, to see a sense of optimism prevalent despite a season of cynical politics."
A lot of people - certainly gloating Tea Party Trumpsters - are going to say that Governor Perry got, well, "Trumped," but I don't think so. Certainly the insanity of Trumpmania didn't help him, but as I said back in May when he announced his second campaign, Rick Perry came into this race as damaged goods. Candidates are, after all, vehicles for the ideas they stand for and represent. Why else do they call it a "race"? Some are lightning-fast Lamborghinis (Bill Clinton comes to mind); some are family minivans (Bush43, for example); some are monster trucks (like Trump); and some break down by the side of the road and never truly get back in the race. And, as the Head & Shoulders shampoo tag line used to say, and especially applies to politics, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."
Rick Perry's first impression was this:
And as I wrote four months ago, he had not and was never going to recover from it. It's blatantly unfair, but that's politics.
In practical terms, Governor Perry's fundraising dried up, but the fundraising dried up because, ultimately, of that fateful fifty-three seconds.
And it's a, well, crying shame, because Perry was the first Republican candidate to recognize the mortal threat to the GOP - to conservatism - posed by Trumpmania and passionately and eloquently sound the alarm. And four years ago, he'd have inflicted major damage to Trump's candidacy right out of the gate.
But this time, he was a broken down sedan, steaming and smoking on the side of the road.
Better call Triple A, Governor.