If Rick Perry was on political life support after his CNBC debate brain freeze, Saturday Night Live pulled the plug last night, with a brutal sketch on the gaffe.
Here is the video from NBC:
The common perception among people who follow politics is that Rick Perry was finished as a candidate the second he could not remember the Department of Energy as the third agency that he would cut. As governor of Texas, if there was one federal department that you would expect a Republican from a state that depends on the oil industry to never forget, it would be Energy. His brain freeze was bad enough, and the constant replaying of it cemented the idea that Rick Perry isn’t very bright.
What Saturday Night Live did was take that the impression that Perry is an intellectual lightweight and magnify by a power of one hundred. In SNL’s sketch, Perry went from over confident dim wit to George from Of Mice and Men in five minutes. The sketch goes so far as mimic the classic work of literature by having Mitt Romney attempt to shoot Perry in the head while he tells him about the rabbits.
In SNL’s parody Rick Perry is not only unfit to be president, he is also mentally challenged. Since it is comedy, nobody seriously believes that one extremely brutal gaffe makes Perry mentally challenged, but in politics perception sometimes matters more than facts. The good news for Perry is that most Americans aren’t paying attention to the 2012 election yet. About 1% of the population has been tuning in to the Republican presidential debates.
The problem for Perry is that even if he does recover with Republican voters, he would now be a joke as the GOP nominee against Obama. SNL satires don’t hurt candidates within their own party, but they can be devastating with casual General Election voters.
Many more Americans are getting their first impressions of the 2012 GOP candidates through programs like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. An SNL satire of a candidate or a president can define a politician in popular culture. Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin, Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford, Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush, and Will Ferrell’s George W. Bush are just a few examples of how SNL can shape the popular image of political figures.
It doesn’t matter that Perry recovered fairly well, and had a decent debate on Saturday night. What matters is that his debate gaffe cemented the idea that Perry is not smart enough to be president. It is almost impossible for a politician to reverse the effect of a popular SNL satire. These images tend to haunt politicians for the rest of their lives.
Rick Perry’s support with Republicans has collapsed, and this SNL spoof was just another nail in his coffin..