Fading at the polls, Rick Perry goes all out for the evangelical vote

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PERRY: Well, let me back up and say that I would support a constitutional amendment that would allow our children to pray in school any time that they would like. Right now, those activist judges like Sotomayor and Kagan that he put on the Supreme Court, they would continue to say that that is a decision that the Supreme Court should make.

I happen to believe that that would be a local decision and that's not the Supreme Court's business to be telling Americans when and how they should pray.

Perry said he would travel the nation if elected to advocate for a Constitutional amendment to reverse the court's ruling and allow for prayer in school.

On gays in the military, Perry also attempted to back up his statement that despite all evidence to the contrary, the 1993 Don't Ask/Don't Tell directive actually was working.

Perry: And for the Commander in Chief to use our military as a political tool while we're in combat in two different, at least two different locations around the world in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think is really irresponsible. I'm Commander in Chief of 20 plus thousand men and women. I served in the U.S. Air Force. I understand the issue, and I don't think it's an issue that's one where the President of the United States and the Congress for that matter, should be forcing upon the men and women of the military. I think it was bad public policy and I would change it.

Remember before Perry got into the race, how there were whispers that he was just like George W. Bush "without the intelligence"? That reputation reached its apogee when Perry had his meltdown at a debate in October, pausing for a painful minute when he couldn't recall the name of a government department he intended to kill off.

At a recent editorial board meeting, Perry had another brain freeze when he misstated Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's name, leading Chris Wallace on Sunday to ask (with all due respect of course) if Perry had the smarts to be president?

WALLACE: And then you said eight judges on the court. As you know there are nine.

How do you respond to those who say, you know, I like Rick Perry, I like his values, but I worry, does he know enough to be president of the United States.

PERRY: Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court justices. I don't know how eight came out of my mouth. But the fact is, I can't tell you, I don't have memorized all of the Supreme Court judges.

Here's what I do know, that when I put an individual on the Supreme Court just like I have done in Texas, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas: they will be strict constructionists. They won't be activist judges. That's what Americans care about.

They are not looking for a robot that can spit out the name of every Supreme Court justice, or someone that is going to be perfect in every way. They are looking for somebody who's got values that are based with a deep rudder in the water.

And I am consistent in my conservative values. I have been consistent. And Americans are looking for someone who is going to make the right decisions, not someone who can either read a teleprompter perfectly or spit out by memory a list of names. That's not what's important to Americans.

What they are looking for an individual who has clear values and a philosophy and a fiscal conservative philosophy at that.

Perry may be right about that, but that debate debacle two months ago effectively eliminated him from serious consideration for the nomination. That may not be fair, but tell Tim Pawlenty that. You remember, the former Minnesota governor who was crucified for failing to attack Mitt Romney in a debate after he did it two days before in a televised Sunday morning television show?

Perry has always had the money, and for awhile Tea Party members thought he could translate his leadership as a job creator in Texas into an effective national campaign. But in a campaign season dominated by the televised debates, the leaders (so far) have been the ones most effective in the format, Gingrich and Romney.

Perry has said he's not a great debater, and that shouldn't be disqualifying. But this year it simply is.

A Marist poll out Sunday morning shows that in Florida's January 31 presidential primary, Newt Gingrich maintains a substantial lead over Mitt Romney, up by 15 points, 44 percent to 29 percent.

Finishing a distant third is Ron Paul at 8 percent, and Rick Perry is fourth with 4 percent.

Perry is also in fourth place in the all-important state of Iowa, host of the first caucus in just three weeks. Iowa is also the home to a lot of evangelical Christians (six in ten who participated in the 2008 Republican contest, according to Reuters), and the Texas governor began his last-ditch effort to salvage his campaign there by releasing an ad last week called "Strong," in which he laments an America where "gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." He blames President Obama for the "war on religion" and promises to "fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage."

(MoveOn.org said as of last week that more than 300,000 had said they didn't like the ad. The liberal activist group is trying to get over a million people to say they dislike it).

On Fox News Sunday, Perry was asked by host Chris Wallace what Obama had to do with allowing prayer in school, since the Supreme Court ruled against school-sponsored prayer in 1962.

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