If politicos were waiting for fireworks in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, they got them in spades Tuesday night when Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney nearly went face to face over immigration.
Perry, accused of sleepwalking through recent debates, drastically sharpened his attacks on Romney in last night's CNN Western Republican debate, accusing him of knowingly employing illegal immigrants to work on his home. Romney, playing to a friendly home crowd, took some shots from Perry and other GOP candidates over healthcare for a good portion of the debate.
However, the night's big loser was Godfather's Pizza CEO and temporary frontrunner Herman Cain, who mostly disappeared from the discussion after spending the first segment defending his “9-9-9” tax-reform plan. While it's yet unclear whether either Perry or Romney helped themselves by sharpening their rhetoric, Cain made a significant unforced error when he said he would consider negotiating with terrorists over captured soldiers. And while Cain received cheers from the crowd for saying Occupy Wall Street protesters should blame President Barack Obama instead of the financial industry for being unemployed, he was met by a long-winded response from Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), also applauded, blaming the Federal Reserve for the 2008 financial crisis.
Perry also did not help himself with a rambling semi-apology for pastor Robert Jeffress, who introduced Perry at the Washington Value Voters Summit and also called Mormonism, Romney's faith, a cult. Of course, recent history has shown voters will forgive candidates for the off-center rants of their religious leaders.