OKATIE, South Carolina (Reuters) - Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on Thursday mistakenly referred to a U.S. war with Iran, confusing the country with Iraq in the latest gaffe to hit his White House bid.
A South Carolina woman at a Perry campaign event asked him to comment on the two wars in which the United States was involved. "She asked about Iran, Afghanistan," Perry said.
Members of the audience shouted out "Iraq," and Perry stopped himself. "Excuse me, I mean Iraq," he continued. "That'll be on the front page," he added to laughter.
Perry shot to front runner in the Republican primary for the Republican nomination in the summer, but a series of gaffes during debates was followed by a sharp decline in support from which he is struggling to recover. He is down in single digits in South Carolina, behind Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, recent polls show.
Perry has responded by making light of the slips. Most famously in a presidential debate he forgot the third of three U.S. departments he planned to eliminate. "Oops," he said at the time. On Thursday, he said that every now and then when speaking without a teleprompter "you forget your third thing."
Although Perry meant to say Iraq, tensions between the United States and Iran have heightened recently over Tehran's nuclear program. Iran last weekend said it had shot down a U.S. reconnaissance drone in the east of the country.
(Reporting By Peter Henderson; editing by Anthony Boadle)