"I will tell you: It's three agencies of government, when I get there, that are gone: Commerce, Education and the -- what's the third one there? Let's see. ... OK. So Commerce, Education and the -- ... The third agency of government I would -- I would do away with the Education, the ... Commerce and -- let's see -- I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops." Oops? Oops? That was Rick Perry’s comeback. He simply said, "Oops." And then the microphone went to one of his seven Republican rivals. Oops indeed. This was seriously terrible. You might say that blunders happen in debates. After all, Perry is not the first, nor will he be the last, to have a mental lapse in a debate. So the question is: How much damage will Perry's gaffe do?
Perry's mental block was very, very bad. One reason is that the question he was asked at the time wasn't even about cutting agencies. It was about how he could work with Democrats across the aisle. But Perry wanted to add some flair, so he looked at Ron Paul to brag about how he would cut three different agencies and then gave himself the self-induced wound.
Unfortunately, if you have been watching these Republican presidential debates, your first impression, along with that of many other viewers, is that Rick Perry does not have the best grasp of the issues and he has a difficult time answering questions. Fair or not, this may turn people away from voting for him.
Lately the entire focus of Perry's team has been trying to change the public's first impression of their candidate. They believed these upcoming debates would help. After all, Perry couldn't get any worse, right? Oops. It turns out he could. And since many in the public have an unfavorable first impression, Perry's performance fed right into that.
Because of his poor first impression, Perry was the candidate who could least afford a slip-up of this magnitude. Instead of overcoming that negative first impression, he did the opposite. He cemented it.
To some political observers, the Texas governor's legendary brain freeze went down as the worst unforced error in modern debating history. But Perry is actually starting to campaign off the gaffe in which he blanked on the third of three departments in the federal government that he would eliminate. And his campaign issued a fundraising appeal, saying the 2012 hopeful has just demonstrated that the federal government is so vast and unwieldy that the most-versed politician can't keep it all straight.
"I think we've had over 2,000 hits already," Perry said on Fox News during a Thursday afternoon appearance, the latest in a sweep of television media outlet interviews for the day.
Perry said he will also attend another GOP debate Saturday in South Carolina, but doesn't know his schedule after that. He has weighed whether to abandon the debate format for venues and events where he can excel in one-on-one contacts and long-form answers.
And he argued he has the best plan for an American recovery.
"I am hoping that the American people are the type of individuals that understand there are mistakes to be made, but what are you going to get done for us. Those people sitting around the dinner table, around the TV last night may not have a job, or are fixing to lose a job because of policies that have been put in place because of these federal agencies that are piling the regulations on," he said.