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. Dixie

    More entertainment–though it's hard to watch. OOPS.

    November 10, 2011 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  2. carlos

    After the debate I can say that Ron Paul has my vote.

    November 10, 2011 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  3. George W. Bush

    I also want to give thanks to Perry's Mom and Dad. They used to make calendars with a gaffe of mine for each day of the year. Now they can do it with Palin, Bachmann and Perry. Whew.

    November 10, 2011 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  4. Skipper

    Gonna miss this guy..... What an awesome buffoon! He's really making the T.P. and GOP shine... Lol!

    November 10, 2011 01:42 am at 1:42 am |
  5. Thomas

    Maybe the third agency will be the Rick Perry for President Department.

    November 10, 2011 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  6. Mitt Romney

    I am clearly the biggest flip-flopper in political history. Can't seem to make up my mind and stick with a viewpoint on anything, really. I haven't governed anything in many years and I am a Mormon. Despite all of that and the fact that I am far to the left of the tea-baggers, I am easily the nominee.

    Oops, forgot to thank Perry's Mom and Dad. That is a moment that will live in infamy.

    P.S. Please print this quickly before I change my mind. Hurry!

    November 10, 2011 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  7. Ann


    You are an example of why Americans are behind. Expecially TEXANS... bottom of rank of 50

    November 10, 2011 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  8. Seriously

    If you vote for any of these clowns, you need to be institutionalized. This is the most pathetic group in the history of the United States. Even Fux News can't spin this. Ugly.

    November 10, 2011 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  9. seriously???

    Perry, gone. So it's Romney, Cain or Gingrich. These are the choices to elect as leader in a time of world crises??? I would argue that at this point even if you don't like Obama, it is better to have someone who is now experienced in the job to ride out the next four years. Personally I like Obama a lot, but even if I didn't, in times of world crises like this, trying to pick a different flavor is going to do nothing but hurt.

    November 10, 2011 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  10. manhandler

    Ahhhhh....and the GOP comedy train keeps chuggin' along

    November 10, 2011 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  11. Nunya

    It may end his chances of convincing enough people to support him to ever win the nomination, but the ones who already support him won't care because they're true believers and supporting him regardless of things like this.

    November 10, 2011 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  12. morpunkt

    This guy was, just a few months ago, the darling of the Evangelical/Tea Party. What a disgusting commentary on their body politic.

    November 10, 2011 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  13. scott

    I can't help but notice that Republicans from Texas are always driving nails in the coffin of the far right. If a person didn't know better, he might think they were doing it on purpose. Still, his gaff is a perfect representation of may American Conservatives today.

    November 10, 2011 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  14. SixDegrees

    Well, he remembered two. That probably makes him the most intelligent Creationist ever.

    November 10, 2011 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  15. Jack

    Oops? Oops? Obama 2012 (Rightfully so)

    November 10, 2011 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  16. Dan J

    I can't stand the guy one bit, but this was a senior moment that could have happened to any one of us. Yes, he could have handled it with a lottle more elegance, but there's so much more to the debate that can be used to bash the guy.

    November 10, 2011 02:52 am at 2:52 am |
  17. Not fooled

    I am sorry but Perry is not Presidential material.

    November 10, 2011 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  18. Iamperry

    He's like G.W. Bush. .. .but dumber. never thought I would say that 😐

    November 10, 2011 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  19. janie

    If forgets now what will he forget later....

    November 10, 2011 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  20. Bob S Philadelphia , Pa

    I really like Perry but man he s making it hard for me to justify me voting for

    November 10, 2011 03:25 am at 3:25 am |
  21. papa

    as rick's own words come back to haunt him-"adios mofo"

    November 10, 2011 03:28 am at 3:28 am |
  22. B.j. Philbin

    Now we can see why Texas ranks so poorly in education!

    November 10, 2011 03:31 am at 3:31 am |
  23. dwight bailey

    Get out the name tag ,soon he will notremember is name. Dementia,Dementia.

    November 10, 2011 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  24. Wylie Mike

    This nation can't afford more 'Oops'.
    Especially when he is negotiating our National Security, International Treaties, or Economic fairness with China.
    Even with advisers he has to be cognitive enough to catch the mistakes of his advisers before doing something that has an irreversible consequence.

    November 10, 2011 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  25. Wylie Mike

    He looked like he was looking to a classmate to get an answer to an exam question.

    November 10, 2011 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
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