'Oops.' Rick Perry melts down at GOP debate

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on November 9, 2011 at 11:14 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 10 at 4:14 AM

Poll:
After his debate gaffe, should Perry consider dropping out of the race?

It was a huge mistake Wednesday night in what's already being called Gov. Rick Perry's worst debate ever.

Some are calling it "devastating" ... even "political suicide."

The Republican presidential candidate forgot his own plan in an embarrassing moment.

Perry — who has previously admitted that he's not a good debater — certainly confirmed that. But will this gaffe fatally cripple his already faltering campaign?

The Texas governor got a round of applause when he declared early in the debate: "We need to go out there and stick a big 'ol flag in the middle of America that says, 'Open for business again!'"

With eight weeks until the Iowa caucuses, Perry just needed a solid performance in this debate on the economy. And Perry spoke knowledgeably about his flat tax plan and cutting regulations.

But when Perry went to name three departments he would abolish, every candidate's nightmare happened.

"It's three agencies of government when I get there that are gone," Perry said. "Commerce, Education and the uh, uh, what's the third one there? Let's see."

"EPA?" asked fellow candidate Mitt Romney.

"EPA! There you go," Perry said.

The Texan was then asked if he was serious about eliminating the EPA.

"No sir, no sir, we're talking about the agencies of government. EPA needs to be rebuilt," Perry said.

"But you can't name the third one?"

"The third agency of government, I would do away with Education, the, uh, Commerce. And let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't," Perry said, adding quietly: "Oops."

The damage done, Perry had to wait about 15 minutes until questioned again to reveal the name of that third department.

"And by the way, that was the Department of Energy I was reaching for a while ago," he said as the audience and some of the other candidates laughed.

To his credit, Perry talked to reporters immediately after the debate saying he just couldn't get that third department out.

"I'm glad I had my boots on, because I sure stepped in it," he said.

Perry is scheduled to appear at another debate Saturday in South Carolina. Debates are important because they're unscripted events with candidates side-by-side to see what they know.

For now, the assessment begins as to just how damaging Wednesday night's performance was to Perry's campaign for the highest office in the land.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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