Rick Perry's New Hampshire supporters are rallying around their candidate, saying isn't as big a deal as some are making it out to be.
"I think everyone has their 'oops' moment," or their share of "brain misfiring," said Deputy House Speaker Pam Tucker, R-Greenland, one of Perry's first New Hampshire supporters.
Tucker still believes Perry is a strong candidate, and said she is surprised that his gaffe is overshadowing the most critical issue of the campaign – the economy.
She said Perry will be back in New Hampshire next week, with stops in Nashua, Manchester and Franklin, and she doesn't think what happened in the debate will hurt his chances to win here or elsewhere.
"Every candidate makes mistakes," Tucker said.
Another early Perry supporter, House Majority Whip Pete Silva, R-Nashua, said that while the debate flub wasn't one of Perry's finer moments, he stands solidly behind the Texas governor.
"My position hasn't changed," he said. "The reason I got involved with Governor Perry is because he's the anti-Romney. Yes, he's going to have to do something to combat (Wednesday's) lapse in Saturday's debate. But I see it as a gaffe in style, rather than substance."
Silva said he admires Perry's Monday-morning quarterbacking of the high-profile blunder.
"I saw Perry this morning on Fox, and he's simply saying, 'Yeah, I screwed up. Good thing I had my boots on, because I sure stepped in it last night.' He needs to do more of that. Instead of worrying about giving the perfect answer, Rick Perry just needs to be more himself. This is why I picked him out as who I wanted as a candidate before he was even running."
Rep. Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, another state lawmaker who has endorsed Perry, said he thinks the campaign can survive Wednesday night's blunder.
"Certainly it was a gaffe, and he readily admits it," Hinch said. "He did a superb job putting the human side to it after the debate..."
Hinch said he thinks Perry's debate answer will continue to be a conversation piece and people who have never supported him will say it's going to ruin the campaign.
"Can you name anyone who hasn't made an error like that or had a brain freeze?" Hinch asked.
He called it a memorable moment but said Perry can move past it.
"I still think he is a great candidate," Hinch said. "I belive he will be a great president. This is a kind of pebble in the shoe thing, but this, too, shall pass."
Despite what local supporters are saying, political observers say Perry's debate gaffe may be the finishing blow to a campaign that was already staggering.
"I would say the jig is up," said Pat Griffin, a senior fellow with the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. "I talked to a couple Perry people last night. They were just completely deflated."
He said Perry was in trouble even before last night, but his performance in the CNBC debate sealed his fate.
"You always worry about someone throwing up on themselves during a debate, added Griffin, who has worked on campaigns for George H.W. and George W. Bush. "Frankly, that was probably the worst debate gaffe I've ever seen. I felt bad for the guy."
University of New Hampshire political science professor Dante Scala agreed, saying any time Michele Bachmann says she feels sorry for you, that's not good.
"You never want to be a laughingstock, you never want people to pity you," he said. "That's a bad thing."
Griffin said Perry's gaffe was reminiscent of Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot's running mate back in 1992. But Stockdale was held to a much lower standard.
"It's not just Rick Perry made a mistake and ha-ha-ha," he said. "This race is about competency. Republicans are looking for a competent, thoughtful person who can stand next to Obama and have command and presence. Perry's gaffe last night played right into the fact that Obama would eat him alive and he's simply not up to the job, period."
"That, in 53 seconds, sums up everything establishment Republicans thought was wrong about the guy," added Scala. "Everyone makes mistakes, but it's coming off a series of mediocre debates which have raised all sorts of questions about his readiness for this. It's hard to imagine how the cement is not going to harden pretty quickly around his feet."