Perry Stumbles Badly in Michigan Debate

“Oops.”

That’s the word Rick Perry uttered after a major stumble in the Republican presidential debate Wednesday. It spoke volumes about how bad his debate performances have been and how far he has sunk as a 2012 presidential contender.

Audible gasps could be heard in the press filing center when Perry could not remember all three federal departments that he would shut down if elected president. In a cringe-inducing moment, he tried three times and finally gave up.

“I would do away with the Education, Commerce and, let’s see,” the flailing Texas governor said. “I can’t. The third one I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”

At one point another candidate suggested the Environmental Protection Agency. Perry initially agreed but then said that wasn’t the right one.

It was perhaps the greatest embarrassment so far in a campaign that has been piling them up like cord wood. And while it’s easy to overestimate a single moment, this one felt different and potentially game-changing.

As in, possibly game-ending.

“To my memory, Perry’s forgetfulness is the most devastating moment of any modern primary debate,” said veteran University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato in a widely disseminated comment on Twitter.

“Wow. Just Wow,” read another Tweet from a viewer that scrolled on the bottom of TV screens on the CNBC news ticker.

The phrase “He’s done” could be heard echoing through the press room in Rochester Hills, Mich.

After the questioning moved on, Perry finally remembered what department it was — Energy — but it seemed like it was too late.

The damage was done.

Perry, clearly gauging the gravity of his flub, came into the spin room to talk to reporters.

"I stepped in it, man. Yeah, it was embarrassing, of course it was," Perry said. 

He added: "I named two agencies, and [the Department of Energy] didn't come out. The bottom line is that while I may have forgotten energy, I haven't forgotten my conservative principles."

Even his competitors felt so sorry for him that they wouldn't pile on. 

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said, "There's nothing I could say that could darken the night Rick Perry had."

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