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. Nothing new here

    Perry is going to be down on his knees, praying for a miracle to save his campaign after this last debacle. Stick a fork in him, this guy is done.

    November 9, 2011 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  2. Anne

    "Ahh... What was I chasing...A rhino??? Ha, ha, ha. No, no, not a rhino" said the absent-minded fox after going around the tree too many times while chasing Bugs Bunny

    November 9, 2011 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  3. Mike in Montana

    Rick Perry has made it quite clear, he is NO debater or quick thinker.. To be quite honest, Governor Rick Perry is NOT ready for prime time, just ask ex-Governor Sarah Palin. Rick.., you have stuck your foot in your big mouth, to many times now. It's time to leave the race for the presidency. Now.., if we could only get Herman Cain, to tell the truth and quick being in 'self-denial' about his sexual harassment with women, (plural). Maybe, we could have a race, within the Republican Party for The White House. Rick.., step aside and Herman, tell the truth, instead of self-denial and half-truths. What until millions and millions of voters look into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the LDS Church and Mormonism.., Mitt Romney is going to have some big problems concerning the LDS Church and their doctrines and rituals. Millions of voters are NOT going to like what they read, see and hear about the LDS Church. You know, the Republican Party may be in real trouble, more than what they are now with these clowns, including a religious cult. Mike in Montana

    November 9, 2011 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  4. Dan5404

    There are so many possibilities, bu one word is good. Another might be "Duh".

    November 9, 2011 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  5. Patty - Illinois

    Perry forgets the last of three items, and then couldn't think on his fee! Do you want this man answering a 2 a.m. call regarding a potential crisis this country might face?

    November 9, 2011 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  6. Richard T.

    How does Texas and the GOP produce political clowns like Perry and Bush? Clearly the GOP is just the face and tools of the far far far far right wing billionaires.

    November 9, 2011 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  7. anonie miss

    Perry seems like a nice guy but I think we can all now agree that Romney is the only GOP candidate who could possibly challenge Obama.

    November 9, 2011 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  8. Yogi uti

    Out of touch... Out Of debate... Out of the race...
    Vote huh for 1222 election

    November 9, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  9. colt45

    Just more evidence tha Perry spouts meaningless WORDS just to get votes. If he truly believed he would abolish the three agencies he would easily have remembered them.

    November 9, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  10. Dave

    OH MY GOD. this man thinks he can be president of our country??

    November 9, 2011 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  11. Felicia King

    geez louise, and this is supposed to be the alternative. I admit president obama isn't perfect, no man is, but doggone it he's trying. i thought the only one's with some sense was romney and perry. cain might have a little. not so sure about perry anymore since the reagan or bush finance guy called him a idiot, and now he don't know what he wants to cut. apparently, his ideas on cutting agencies aren't from his own ideas. but why would you want to get rid of the department of education and EPA? aren't the american kids stupid enough? and now you want to get rid of the good shows on PBS, you know how lazy american kids are nowadays, all they do is sit in front of the TV. the only other thing on is sex and reality shows. no wonder 12 year olds are getting pregnant. when I was little we had punky brewster and 227. And the EPA helps cap the pollution levels emitted from industrial facilities. the GOP seemed to care about the gulf spill, but they don't care about the EPA, don't get it. think they just wanted to talk crap about the president. and whats up with the females? if you read the bible you would understand that females are stupid and do stupid crap trying to be in control when they don't know what they are doing. Well, I seem to be voting Obama 2012! HOOAH!

    November 9, 2011 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  12. greg

    Sorry, Perry, but axing an entire agency is a serious move and if you can't even recall it, then please, do everyone including yourself a favor and exit the stage. Aside from the idiocy of the idea itself, you are embarrasing to watch.

    November 9, 2011 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  13. nina

    I am going to defend Perry, here. So, he got nervous and lost his train of thought for a minute. It happens sometimes when you're speaking in public, especially in front of a live, national audience. I'm not a Perry fan, nor do I intend to vote for him, but I think the media is making a mountain out of a molehill here.

    November 9, 2011 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  14. Gary in Tampa

    Perry- "I'm sure glad I had my boots on because I sure stepped in it out there."

    Well... Mr. didn't step in "it" you stepped in yourself I'd say.

    He's done.

    Cain is done.

    It's the RINO Romney...much to the dislike of the teabaggers.

    November 9, 2011 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  15. carrie

    Oops ! He is Texas Toast!

    November 9, 2011 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  16. opinion8it

    Did he just have a Reagan moment?

    November 9, 2011 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  17. Brian T.

    Answering a question about jobs creation, Perry attempted to name the three agencies he has proposed shutting.

    Doesn't sound like Ricky understood the question either.

    November 9, 2011 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  18. Amazing!

    Rick Perry has achieved the impossible: he has made his predecessor as Texas governor, George W. Bush, look intelligent and articulate by comparison. What a joke.

    November 9, 2011 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  19. ArtInChicago

    Hey, it happens. Ain't a Republican but folks aren't robots. If Cain is still there thinking China doesn't have nuclear weapons and New Hampshire fired the shot heard around the world from Bachmann, I will give Perry a pass.

    November 9, 2011 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  20. Damien

    And this guy (Rick Perry) has been elected three times in the State of Texas where I live? Unbelievable. In Texas he got away with staying out of debates and largely out of situations where he might have had to discuss something important and engage his intellect. On the national stage, his true self comes out.

    November 9, 2011 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  21. carlos

    Goes to show you if you belong to the party in power you really do not have to be that smart.

    November 9, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  22. nell ryan

    Bill Clinton, the most brilliant political debater we've seen in the last century, must be laughing his head off at this one. He called Rick Perry a handsome "rascal," and that remark immediately put Perry into the category of political airheads where he most certainly belongs. The GOP should start their own Comedy Central. These guys are a riot!

    November 9, 2011 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  23. Abilene Girl

    Perry should have practiced debating his opponents in Texas when he had the chance.

    November 9, 2011 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  24. Denise

    Can everyone finally agree that this guy is NOT Presidential material? As a matter of fact, is he appropriate for ANY political or government office, whether national, state or local? I have to go with a BIG NO! Thank you very much, Mr. Perry, for showing us what you are truly made of. Good luck on your future endeavors outside of politics.

    November 9, 2011 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  25. westward

    I hear heavy drinking will mess with your memory like that.

    November 9, 2011 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
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