November 9th, 2011
10:22 PM ET
9 years ago

Will 'Oops' be Perry's campaign epitaph?

(CNN) - A visibly flustered Rick Perry was reduced to "Oops" after a painful 53 seconds of trying to remember the name of the third of three federal agencies he would cut at a Republican presidential debate in Rochester, Michigan, on Wednesday.

Answering a question about jobs creation, Perry attempted to name the three agencies he has proposed shutting. He named two, but could not come up with the third, even after appearing to consult notes.

Perry was facing Texas Rep. Ron Paul as he answered the question.

"I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone," Perry said. "Commerce, Education, and the - what's the third one there? Let's see. OK. Commerce, Education, and the..."

"EPA?" Romney offered off camera.

"EPA, there you go," Perry said.

When pressed by moderator John Harwood if the Environmental Protection Agency was indeed the third agency he proposes shuttering, Perry admitted that it wasn't. He then attempted again to remember the details from his plan.

"The third agency of government I would - I would do away with Education, the Commerce, and, let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops."

Several minutes later in the debate, Perry clarified that the agency he was trying to remember was the Department of Energy.

Saddled with a series of lackluster debate performances and down in the polls, pundits were quick to predict the stumble was one from which Perry wouldn't be able to recover.

On Twitter, reaction was swift.

"Perry collapses. Cannot remember a list of three federal government departments he wants to abolish past the first two. Seriously. And then he says "oops." He has all but disappeared inside his suit in this debate and is now basically done," conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan tweeted.

CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen wrote, “Was that the most embarrassing moment of the campaign –#RickPerry unable to remember the 3rd Cabinet dept he would eliminate?"

Dana Loesch, a conservative radio host and CNN contributor, asked, "How can Perry recover from that?"

Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Roland Martin exclaimed, "Damn, he actually forgot the third federal agency he would get rid of! That is THE MOST EMBARRASSING moment of any debate I've seen!"

Appearing in the spin room after the debate, the Texas governor tried to make light of the gaffe: "I'm sure glad I had my boots on because I sure stepped in it out there."

–CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby contributed to this report.

Also see:

Perry's forget me-not-fundraising

Poll: Tight races between Obama and Romney in three swing states

Five things we learned from Wednesday's GOP debate



Filed under: 2012 • Debate • Rick Perry
soundoff (320 Responses)
  1. drew

    he wants to create jobs but want to get rid of 3 department agenices that will be getting rid of jobs, plus congress won't even consider getting rid of them

    November 10, 2011 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  2. phil

    Those who should quit the process now are: bachmann, cain and...ummm...who was the...wait I've got it right here...oops...oh yea, perry.

    November 10, 2011 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  3. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Perry should ummm, er,..ah,(blank)... hmm...quit!

    November 10, 2011 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  4. Stopthemadness

    Yeah cut education, not like there aren't enough dummies in this country. (YES G.O.P. I'm talking about your ilk) Just keep trying to make Americans dumber so you can keep pulling the wool over their eyes.

    November 10, 2011 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  5. Douglas

    I guess he forgot to pray before the debate.

    November 10, 2011 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  6. Dave

    Seriously Republicans? This guy makes Palin look like a Rhodes Scholar and she's as dumb as a stump. Then again, there are a lot of voters in that catagory as well.

    November 10, 2011 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  7. mikewest05

    In politics there is little to no room for gaffes. While I can't begin to imagine the pressure presidential candidates have to deal with I have to admit there is no excuse for Perry's mistake. Better luck next election cycle Rick, your done.

    November 10, 2011 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  8. Tim K

    Perry has a strange drunk like speech and now this. He is trying to fake his way through the primary. Obama would eat his lunch in the Presidential debate. He probably will not fold it up at this point, but he should. He is done. The process has exposed too many flaws and he should be eliminated. Maybe we can vote one candidate off each month until we are left with the winner.

    November 10, 2011 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  9. ed

    So he had a brain fart....Who hasn't, please raise your hand. At least he doesn't use a telepromter.

    November 10, 2011 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  10. kisses6350

    Seriously? This is to easy.............LOL

    November 10, 2011 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  11. gg

    would make a great president for texas

    November 10, 2011 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  12. Hugh G. Rection

    Keep eliminating education, because you need one.

    November 10, 2011 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  13. Poerker

    Leader of the free world? I think not...

    November 10, 2011 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  14. Rudy NYC

    Anyone with compassion has to feel sorry for the guy. Didn't he have some notes in front of him? Oh, well.

    So, on that note, here's some SNL material. Fill in the blank.

    Please name the children's game. Tic, Tac, ____.
    Please name the 3rd character. Snap, Crackle, and _____.
    Please name the 3rd Stooge. Larry, Curly, and _____ .

    November 10, 2011 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  15. NanG

    I don't understand this country. Perry has a brain freeze and it's the end of his campaign? Cain is accused of sexually harassing 4 women, that we know of, and his campaign is full steam ahead?! Maybe the problem with America isn't the politicians, maybe the problem is the citizens.

    And no, I'm not a Perry fan, I'm a Ron Paul fan.

    (Sorry if this posted twice, I didn't see it show up the first time)

    November 10, 2011 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  16. Rick McDaniel

    I'm sure that would please CNN.......but no, a momentary lapse, in finding a word, is not a big deal for anyone over 50.

    November 10, 2011 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  17. kay

    The lord was speaking to him and he just could no hear. That is why he could not speak. Perry will deliver us from the morass we face.

    November 10, 2011 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  18. Pragmatist

    Oops, em,em,em... let's see, what was I going to write? Sorry, I can't remember!

    November 10, 2011 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  19. El Dre

    That cowboy is toast....

    November 10, 2011 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  20. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Even though he eclipsed Michelle Bachmann at the Iowa straw poll to become the Tea Party (oops, I mean Republican) front runner for President, every time he has opened his mouth since then, he has proven to be nothing more than an empty suit that cannot even remember his talking points. How can they still take this guy seriously? Frankly, I wouldn't even vote for him for my Church's board of trustees.

    November 10, 2011 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  21. Grog Says

    *** Rick Perry with his finger on the nuclear button ***

    What country was i supposed to destroy ? no no no no no no

    Dang, i know its starts with an "I"..............

    November 10, 2011 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  22. Grog Says

    Doesnt matter, Norquist says the next republican president
    only has to do what he is told.

    November 10, 2011 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  23. w l jones

    There two kind of memerial: straight and photo maybe he have the last one which a lot of people do have. Bless.

    November 10, 2011 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  24. Grog Says

    You can pull my string
    I will do anything
    Im your puppet.

    November 10, 2011 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  25. Keith in Austin

    Perry needs to step down gracefully. Although he is a good man, right or wrong he just can't cut the mustard in open debates.

    November 10, 2011 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
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