VIDEO: Rick Perry's 'oops' defining moment of Republican presidential debate

The Takeaway

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, tries to remember the third of three agencies of government he would disband if he were elected president. He could not remember the third. (Photo from CBC video.)

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The Republican presidential candidates had another debate Wednesday night, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry took center stage.

Unfortunately for Perry, he'd probably wished another of the candidates had, as he put it, "really stepped in it" on national television. For 20 seconds, Perry tried to remember the three government agencies he would disband if elected president: commerce, education, and...

He never remembered, and tried to move past it with a joking comment about the EPA, but ultimately had to admit he was unable to remember the third.

Story continues beneath video.

"As a veteran political junkie for more than 20 years, watching Gov. Perry self-destruct on stage has to be one of the absolutely just horrific moments I've seen," said Ron Christie, a Republican political strategist.

And while Perry's gaffe certainly stole the show, there were other moments that would have been candidates for most-played soundbite: Newt Gingrich tangling with anchor Maria Bartiromo and ultimately refusing to answer what he would do after repealing Obamacare, Mitt Romney stumbling over how many years he's been married and Michelle Bachman railing against China's bad actions.

But, in the end, it was Perry who had the soundbite of the evening.

"Watching that moment with Rick Perry was the longest 20 seconds of my television-viewing life," said Todd Zwillich, The Takeaway's Washington correspondent.

The debate, ostensibly about the economy, was upstaged. It was primarily upstaged by Perry's moment, but also by Romney's answer about the role he played as a leader of a bank and whether he oversaw people being thrown out of their homes, and by Gingrich tangling with Bartiromo.

"I think we're going to be talking about this for days to come: the great Gov. Perry meltdown," Christie said.

After the debate, Perry insisted his campaign wasn't over, but Christie said coming out of the debate, Romney remains the front-runner and Santorum may have earned himself another look as a candidatee.

Hermann Cain managed to avoid any negative moments, and side-stepped the one question he got about sexual assault allegations. None of the candidates pressed him on the issue. Zwillich said that and their general reluctance to attack each other was a sign they were generally satisfied with the poll positions.

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