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Star-Telegram.com

Animated Perry speech generates buzz

Posted Monday, Oct. 31, 2011

By Aman Batheja and Maria Recio

abatheja@star-telegram.com, mrecio@mcclatchydc.com

A spirited and giggling Gov. Rick Perry showed up to deliver a speech Friday in Manchester, N.H., and the resulting video became a YouTube hit Monday.

His campaign insists Perry was simply "being passionate," but the video drew a slew of jokes and questions about whether Perry was under the influence of anything during the speech.

Perry was the featured speaker at the Steward of the Family Banquet put on by Cornerstone-Action, a conservative group in Manchester. During his speech, which lasted about 23 minutes, Perry spoke giddily about primary opponent Herman Cain, the New Hampshire slogan, "Live Free or Die," and his own tax plan while at times rambling, making exaggerated gestures and appearing to stifle giggles.

At the end of his speech, when a host of the event gave Perry some New Hampshire maple syrup, calling it "liquid gold," Perry broke into a fit of laughter.

Clips from the speech drew strong reaction from pundits and political strategists Sunday and Monday as they spread quickly via websites. Portions were played on cable news programs, and some pundits questioned whether Perry had been drinking or was experiencing side effects of medication.

An edited version of the speech that focused on some of Perry's odder moments had been viewed nearly 200,000 people by Monday afternoon.

Time reporter Jay Newton-Small, who attended the speech, wrote Monday that "something was clearly off on Friday as Perry hemmed and hawed his way through the speech, at times ... hooting and smirking at his own jokes and staring googly-eyed at a jar of maple syrup he was given, turning it upside down and watching the syrup ooze downwards, while exclaiming, 'Awesome!'"

Austin political consultant Bill Miller, who has clients in both parties, said, "I think he was just being cute and funny." Asked if he had ever seen the governor that way before, Miller laughed and said, "No."

Perry's performance renewed speculation Monday as to whether he has been taking prescription painkillers because of back surgery he had during the summer.

Perry had a spinal fusion July 1 to treat a recurring back injury. To help speed his recovery, Perry also opted for an experimental injection of his own stem cells, a controversial therapy that isn't FDA-approved.

"The governor was being passionate in his speech," Perry campaign spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said. She did not respond to questions about his back surgery or health.

Perry's uneven performance in the first few presidential debates initially brought about speculation that he was still experiencing back pain and might be taking painkillers. At the September debate in Orlando, Fla., Republicans in the debate hall said Perry looked unwell, The Miami Herald reported.

Aman Batheja, 817-390-7695

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