Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has a very good memory of what it’s like on the campaign trail.
It’s easy to goof, the way Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Ramsey’s preference in the Republican presidential primary, did Wednesday night.
Perry got caught up in what is being called a “gaffe,” a “brain freeze” and “the worst stumble in the 51-year history of televised presidential debates.”
Perry’s description for it: “Oops.”
Perry tried to name the three departments of the federal government he would like to get rid of as president, but he could only go 2-for-3, naming Commerce and Education and failing until it was way too late to state Energy as the third department he would like to dump.
Ramsey, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010 — calling for the elimination of some state departments, by the way — said Thursday it’s easy to make a misstep the way his guy did Wednesday. Ramsey, state campaign chairman for Perry, took up for his man.
“All of us, at times, have one, two and three things and forget the third thing. His just happened to be on national television,” Ramsey said. “I do think obviously it’s embarrassing. No doubt about that. But I do think that we’re still a long way from having this race over, and people are looking for an alternative to (former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt) Romney.
“I think that’s the reason you see Michele Bachmann go up and then fall back down, you see (former Minnesota Gov. Tim) Pawlenty go up and then fall back down. Rick Perry did the same thing, and now it happens to be Herman Cain. Once again, this is still a process that will be working its way out over the next several months.”
Ramsey raised the subject of Perry’s campaign chest.
“I think Rick Perry has the money — I don’t think, I know — Rick Perry has the money to stay in this through the long haul, and stumblings like this are embarrassing, yet at the same time I think he will recover from this,” Ramsey said.
The Perry campaign this week announced the endorsements of six other Tennessee Republican legislators, including Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro, Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown, Sen. Jim Summerville of Dickson, House Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny of Tullahoma, Rep. Don Miller of Morristown and Rep. Mark White of Memphis.
Ramsey said he did not have to twist any arms to get those legislators on the Perry team.
“Just the opposite,” Ramsey said. “I didn’t even try. These are people that have come to me and said, ‘We would like to be on board.’”
Ramsey is the highest ranking elected official in the state who has publicly joined a Republican presidential campaign. Gov. Bill Haslam has refused thus far to state a preference, even as people close to Haslam have joined the Romney finance team.
The governor’s father, Jim Haslam, joins Nashvillian Ted Welch as state finance chairs for Romney. The governor’s brother, Jimmy Haslam, is a co-chairman, as is Brad Martin, a longtime friend of the governor. The finance team also includes Chrissy Hagerty, wife of Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bill Hagerty.
The governor was asked this week, given that so many people close to him were joining the Romney team, why he was holding back.
“No specific reason,” Haslam said. “Given the timing of Tennessee’s primary (March 6), I don’t know that there’s any urgency to it. I think there are some other things that can and will play out. At some point in time, I will endorse. I’m just not there yet.”