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Presidential debate turns into Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Republicans

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“This has been a tough couple debates for Rick,” he said at one point, in calling for Perry to let him answer. “I understand that, you’re going to get a bit testy.”

The debated, hosted by CNN and the Western Republican Leadership Conference and moderated by Anderson Cooper, featured a format that allowed for a rebuttal from any candidate directly attacked and encouraged such exchanges. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took issue with it at the end, saying that “maximizing bickering probably isn’t the road to the White House.”

While he endured the most attacks, Romney wasn’t the only target.

Herman Cain, the businessman who has surged in the polls recently to lead the field with Romney, endured the first pile-on of the debate, with the six other candidates all criticizing his pet 9-9-9 tax plan, which calls for replacing the current federal tax code with a 9 percent federal sales, income, and corporate tax.

For the most part, Mr. Cain took the criticisms in stride, countering that recent assessments of how his plan would affect taxpayers (released Tuesday by the Tax Policy Center) were simply wrong, and saying that many of his opponents’ criticisms were “mixing apples and oranges.”

As the last debate for about a month, many viewers were watching closely to see how Governor Perry performed. His lackluster showing in previous debates has been credited, at least in part, for his drop in the polls.

He was feistier than in recent debates, and clearly came ready to take on Romney. Despite the polls, those two candidates became the center of much of the debate, leaving Cain more on the sidelines.

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