Presidential politics is normally a bare knuckle brawl. At tonight's GOP primary debate in Michigan it was more class discussion than knife fight. In a debate devoid of candidate-on-candidate clashes, the only damage done to any candidate was to Rick Perry, whose candidacy seemed to implode right before our eyes.
Despite the candidates near refusal to attack each other, even when the opportunity was handed to them on a silver platter, tonight's event will have a significant impact on the race.
Here are our three takeaways from tonight's CNBC debate in Michigan:
1. Conservatives Are Rallying Behind Cain: It is clear conservatives are not pleased with the mainstream media's drumbeat of stories about accusations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain. When the moderator tried to ask Cain about the issue in regards to his character, the crowd booed loudly. They booed again when the same question was posed to Romney. Every candidate on stage was sent a very clear message: do not attack Cain on this issue. Any press releases in the can about the issue have now been deleted by the other campaigns' press staff. It is officially off limits.
2. Rick Perry had his Howard Dean scream moment: When Rick Perry was listing the three federal agencies he would get rid of as President he got stuck and could not come up with the third. And then rattled off this line: “I would do away with Education, the – Commerce and, let’s see, I can’t. The third one I can’t…………Oops.” If Perry doesn't win the nomination, you can expect to see that clip in every newscast that references what went wrong. Perry still has a large bankroll left, but that moment may mark the beginning of the end for Perry for President.
3. Keep Newt Gingrich Around: While we don't see Gingrich winning the nomination, we hope whomever does is smart enough to keep him close by their side after they beat Barack Obama. The former Speaker is a nearly bottomless pit of knowledge, ideas and insight. He ran circles around every other candidate on stage when it came to displaying an in-depth understanding of complex policy topics. Get this man a Cabinet position!