TROY, Mich. – Mitt Romney on Thursday became the second of Rick Perry’s presidential rivals to express sympathy for the Texas governor’s cringe-inducing “oops” moment during a debate.
“I wish him the very best,” Romney told reporters here after a rally. In Ypsilanti a few hours before, Herman Cain also offered solidarity when asked what he thought of Perry’s nationally televised brain freeze.
“Unfortunate,” said Cain. “And it could happen to anybody. It could have happened to me.”
Later in the day at an event in Columbia, S.C., Rep. Michele Bachmann was similarly empathetic. "We've all been in situations where we draw a blank and no one takes any joy in that," the Minnesota congresswoman told reporters as she waited for her food at a popular Southern-style eatery. "That's a very difficult thing that we certainly understand."
Pressed about Perry’s much-discussed gaffe -- when the governor failed to remember the name of one of the federal agencies he intends to eliminate -- Romney would only say: “I was much more concerned about how I was doing. I wish everybody else the very best.” He also said he might watch the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS; Perry is set to recite Letterman's "Top Ten" list on the program, as part of a day-long TV blitz aimed at controlling the damage from his debate performance.
Romney's address focused mostly on his roots in Michigan, where he was born and where his father, George Romney, was governor. Driving through Detroit, he said, he was heartbroken to see the state of his hometown. "Back in the 1950s, Michigan had highest income per person of any state in America,” he said. “I know what this city can be, and was, because I saw it then."
Under fire from some Michiganders for a 2008 New York Times op-ed against the auto industry bailout, Romney indirectly defended his stand here on Thursday. "Someone said a long time ago, as General Motors goes, so goes the nation,” he said. “Boy, I sure hope that's not the case. Because General Motors went bankrupt, and I don't want to see the nation go down the path that Detroit's gone down, but the same policies you’re seeing that were so misapplied in Detroit could well take this country down the wrong direction."
It was a very friendly crowd for Romney, who grew up just miles from Troy. His wife, Ann, son Tagg, and granddaughter Allie Romney accompanied him, as well as his brother Scott. Niece Ronna Romney McDaniel introduced the presidential candidate. Romney said he loved being back in Michigan, where "the trees are the right height and grass is the right color."
Romney concluded his remarks by reciting a few lines from a poem by Sam Walter Foss. He often cites this poem on the trail, and almost always prefaces his remarks by joking that "even I can remember four lines." He did not appear to be referencing Perry when he repeated the joke on Thursday – but an audible “ooh” suggested that at least one member of the audience thought he was.
Sarah Huisenga contributed. contributed to this article.