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Was Rick Perry’s Incoherence Caused by Sleepiness?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry speaks during a debate hosted by CNBC and the Michigan Republican Party at Oakland University on November 9, 2011 in Rochester, Michigan. The debate is the first meeting of the eight GOP presidential hopefuls since allegations of sexual impropriety have surfaced against front-runner Herman Cain.

Jay Root, a Texas Tribune reporter with a just-released ebook about the time he spent covering Rick Perry's failed presidential run, claims that the candidate's frequent incoherence on the campaign trail was the result of a sleep disorder. In an excerpt in today's New York Times, Root recalls Perry's truly painful stumble at a September debate in Orlando — a performance that many viewed as the last gasp of his campaign. That morning, according to Root, Perry told an aide he "didn’t sleep a wink."

After that, Perry's increasingly frequent inability to sleep "became a central focus," and a doctor soon diagnosed him with sleep apnea, which causes "loud snoring and temporary lapses in breathing that disrupt normal sleep." Once he was given a machine to help him breathe at night, an aide reported that Perry "had more energy and started to get back into the swing of things, but by then it was too late. The narrative had already been set." Unfortunately, Root did not offer up an explanation for the remarkable "giddiness" Perry experienced upon being gifted a bottle of syrup in late October — several weeks after the sleep issue had supposedly been resolved. 

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Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images