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Rick Perry was a leading candidate for the Republican nomination, until a series of terrible debate performances and viral ads derailed any hope he had. Texas Tribune reporter Jay Root reveals Perry's poor performance could be chalked up to one thing: an undiagnosed sleep disorder. 

Root is releasing a new book called Oops!A Diary from the 2012 Campaign Trail, and it was excerpted in the Texas Tribune and the New York Times. Root talks about his time following the Perry campaign's slow decline from front-runner to punchline to afterthought

After a rambling, incoherent attack from Perry trying to accuse Mitt Romney of being a flip-flopper during one debate, ABC News reporter Arlette Saenz turned to Root and asked, "Was he like this in Texas?" Root was used to explaining Perry to other reporters, but even here he was flummoxed. "Honey, we’re in uncharted waters," he told her. Behind the scenes, Perry's team was just as confused as anyone. Their guy was awful, and they knew it. When they found out he wasn't sleeping they brought in a doctor to check him out:

Back at headquarters in Austin, Perry’s health — his severe lack of sleep, mainly — became a central focus. “Our guy’s not sleeping,” Dave Carney said in the office in a brainstorming session about the governor’s condition.

Perry had kept in touch with his medical team, and by early October, days after the Florida fiasco, he had urgently consulted sleep specialists. After conducting overnight tests on Perry, they produced a rather startling diagnosis: He had sleep apnea, and it had gone undetected for years, probably decades.

Perry's debate performances are a thing of legend at this point, but not for any good reason. At least now he has an excuse. The condition had previously gone undetected until a back surgery in the summer of 2011 stopped his regular exercise routine, which caused his apnea to start bothering him. Root says by the time the diagnosis was in Perry's campaign team had split into two warring factions. Things were done. He was bowing out of the race. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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