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. Greenspam

    Today, Gov Rick Perry wants everyone to join him with a prayer and starts with "To Our Father, To His Son, And... oops, someone who I cannot remember..."

    November 9, 2011 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  2. Rod C. Venger

    I'm guessing here that within a week or so, Perry's campaign will announce that he's been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers and that he's bowing out. I watched his performance and it was just bad. Even when he was given a second chance to name it, he couldn't. I KNOW what it's like to just not be able to find the word, even though I know exactly how to describe it. At 55 years old, it's a disturbing sign, and becoming more frequent. Bye Joe, nice try.

    November 10, 2011 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  3. Keith

    More importantly, Perry is now in trouble with his corporate masters for forgetting the orders they gave him.

    November 10, 2011 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  4. Eddie B

    I guess he learned how to debate from Brittany Spears. "Oops!!! I did it again."

    November 10, 2011 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  5. Ray

    "Oops I did it again". Is Brittany Spears on his campaign staff?

    November 10, 2011 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  6. thomas

    Alzheimer's disease (AD), is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.

    November 10, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  7. no1atall

    'Oops' is what Perry should have said when he found himself in the race at the beginning. Oops is what Texas should have said the morning they woke up and found he was governor. Oops is what repubs will be saying after an election where the incumbent ran unopposed.

    November 10, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  8. Etesot Obe

    Very interesting. Let me telling you, it is beyond embarrasing. It is not just Perry. I mean all of them. Even the same called prohibitive front runner aka Mitt Willard Romney. He has never impressed me one bit. Seriously, And all these crop of empties are supposed to face off with Obama? The remaining chafs should be ready. While critical Obama lately, but I tell you one thing: He is going run over these empties.

    November 10, 2011 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  9. lindafaulks

    If you could not find a job for a long time it is time to change your career guys.. The time is now. Be on your way to earning an accredited degree. Check out High Speed Universities and they sure find suitable career based on your interests.

    November 10, 2011 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  10. mikeokla

    Despite of the verbal gaffe, Governor Perry before he replied to a norther question ,did indeed recall and say to the America people it was the Department of Energy He was reaching for, and that is that. On the hole The Perry plan of “Cut, Balance and Grow”combined with Perry's proven leadership still offered he most and best substance that will put America's Economy back to the forefront of the domestic and globule track.

    November 10, 2011 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  11. joe

    i'll stick with obama!

    November 10, 2011 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  12. portaltech78

    Does this surprise anyone?

    November 10, 2011 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  13. Kathy

    Should have written it on his hand, a la Palin.

    November 10, 2011 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  14. RO

    Perry needs to get off the field. He was an embarassment tonight. Not prepared for his debate. Didn't even understand his own plan.

    November 10, 2011 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  15. c'mon america

    Is he sure thats the three he will cut ? Will any three do ? Does he even know what they do ?

    November 10, 2011 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  16. Buckhippo

    This is the BEST the Republicans have to offer. Wow. Do people really give their hard earned money to these guys? Really?

    November 10, 2011 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  17. Andy

    It was Romney who suggested EPA, not Paul

    November 10, 2011 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  18. Dennis from Millbrae

    When God called for "brains", Perry thought S/He said "rain" and ran for cover. Time to put your tail between your legs Perry and head back to Austin to finish out your term.

    November 10, 2011 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  19. Bushper

    America is now finding out what most Texans already know about Rick Perry, all fluff and no substance.

    November 10, 2011 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  20. Bushper

    Rick Perry is all fluff and no substance.

    November 10, 2011 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  21. Paul Crow

    I believe it was Romney who offered "EPA?" off camera as a suggestion, not Ron Paul. Ron suggested five agencies should be cut.

    November 10, 2011 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  22. edlinn

    Sorry Texas, you're stuck with Perry. He won't be the President of these United States.

    November 10, 2011 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  23. Eric of Reseda

    And it isn't terrifying that so many rank-and-file Republicans are falling for these wildly unqualified people: Cain, Perry, Bachmann?!? Romney is a TOTAL phony, a used car salesman, but at least he knows his stuff pretty good. The GOP leadership should be ashamed of itself for allowing their nominating process to produce such utter pretenders.

    November 10, 2011 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  24. Jack

    The more Rick Perry talks, the more he helps to eliminate himself from the running.

    November 10, 2011 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  25. Marc

    Perry is such an intellectual light-weight. The Tea Party say that they are the smart, responsible movement in America. Will be hard to say that with a straight face if Perry is the candidate in 2012. Perry is finished.

    November 10, 2011 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
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