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Republican Debate: GOP Presidential Candidates Face Off In Michigan (LIVE UPDATES)

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Eight candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination are going head-to-head on Wednesday night in Michigan.

The list of contenders facing off in the forum includes: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Below, a live blog of the latest developments to unfold in Michigan.

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After Rick Perry's "oops" moment at the debate Wednesday night, Chuck Todd tweeted: "Damage control watch: Perry is roadblocking morning shows tmro."

-- Sam Stein

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The Washington Post's Aaron Blake tweets: "Top Perry fundraiser to me: 'Perry campaign is over. Time for him to go home and refocus on being Gov of TX.'"

-- Jason Linkins

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When Rick Perry entered the filing center he was immediately surrounded by a horde of cameras and microphones. Everyone in the press corps was essentially trying to ask one question: What the hell happened out there?

-- Matt Sledge

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Via PantslessProgressive: "What did we learn tonight? Perry should have used the Palin method."

-- Jason Linkins

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@ jonward11 : Ray Sullivan on why perry came in to filing center: "he felt it was important to address the stumble"

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Speaking to CNBC after tonight's debate, Herman Cain acknowledged that referring to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as "Princess Nancy" during the debate was problematic.

"That was a statement that I probably should not have made," Cain said, when asked directly about his comment.

Cain said that his criticism of Pelosi was based on her support for President Barack Obama's health care reform, and her ability to corral the votes supporting it in the House. Cain insisted that health care reform has been a disaster for American businesses. But referring to a prominent woman politician as a "princess" drew immediate criticism, particularly in light of the recent sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations raised against Cain.

-- Zach Carter

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Rick Perry, whose brain fart during the debate overshadowed every other moment, chose to address reporters himself after the debate had ended. Reporters on the scene sent out word that he took to the press filing center himself -- a task usually saved for campaign surrogates and press handlers.

"I'm sure glad I had my boots on because I sure stepped in it out there," he reportedly said.

"Bottom line is, I may have forgotten energy, but I haven't forgotten my conservative principles," he added. "I stepped in it. Yeah it was embarrassing. Of course it was."

Perry pledged to continue debating despite tonight's gaffe: "I'll be in South Carolina on Saturday," he said.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said, "There's nothing I could say that could darken the night Rick Perry had."

After the debate, meanwhile, Rep. Michele Bachmann expressed her sympathies. "We all feel very bad for him," she said.

-- Sam Stein

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Mitt Romney and John Huntsman squared off over China's currency manipulation, with Huntsman warning that retaliating against China with tariffs would spark a "trade war."

Romney has spent much of the campaign attempting to define himself as someone who is "pro-free trade" -- a term he generally leaves undefined -- but who views China's efforts to devalue its own currency as "cheating." Romney said he would deal with China's cheating by making complaints at the World Trade Organization, an international body that adjudicates trade disputes between countries.

The Obama administration has done exactly that, seeking tariffs on tires produced in China on the grounds that existing Chinese trade policies constitute unfair trade. The U.S. won its tire tariff challenge at the WTO.

Huntsman, however, objected to this approach, saying that "slapping tariffs" on Chinese goods would simply result in drawn out "trade war" with China, in which China would impose its own tariffs against U.S. goods, hampering American products. While Huntsman said that China does unfairly manipulate its currency, he noted that China would likely attempt to justify its own tariffs against U.S. goods by pointing to the Federal Reserve's expansionary monetary policy.

By devaluing its currency, China makes labor costs cheaper in China than in the U.S., thereby allowing it to attract U.S. manufacturing jobs. So called "strong dollar" policies in the U.S., however, encourage the same activity, and subsidize Wall Street in the process -- boosting the international value of American stocks while encouraging U.S. companies to send jobs abroad, where "weaker" currencies result in lower labor costs.

-- Zach Carter

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Mitt Romney either fully flipped or struck a decidedly different note on the issue of extending the soon-to-be-expired payroll tax cut during the Republican presidential debate on Wednesday night.

Asked whether he would extend the cut, which the Obama administration has proposed to do -- arguing that it would save the average household around ,500 -- Romney offered the following response:

I don't want to raise taxes on people in the middle of a recession. Of course not. That's one of the reasons why we fought so hard to make sure the Bush tax cuts were not taken away by President Obama. Look, this issue of deficits and spending is not about dollars and cents. It is a moral issue. It is a moral imperative. We cannot continue to pass on massive debts to the next generation. We cannot continue to put at risk the greatest nation in the history of the earth because of the profligate spending going on in Washington, D.C.

It was a bit of a dodge, and John Harwood, the moderator, asked again.

"I want to keep our taxes down," Romney replied. "I don't want to raise any taxes anywhere. I'm not looking to raise taxes. What I'm looking to do is to cut spending."

The implication seemed fairly clear -- certainly to the Obama campaign, which flagged the exchange: Romney would be uncomfortable seeing the payroll tax cut ended, which is a decidedly different posture than he struck a month ago.

Asked during the Oct. 11 debate in New Hampshire whether he would be fine seeing the payroll tax cut expire, Romney acknowledged that "no one likes to see tax increases."

"But look," he added, "the stimulus bills the president comes out with that are supposedly going to create jobs, we have now seen this played in the theater several times, and what we're seeing has not worked... The right course for America is not to keep spending money on stimulus bills, but instead to make permanent changes to the tax code. Look, when you give -- as the president's bill does, if you give a temporary change to the payroll tax, and you say, we're going to extend this for a year or two, employers do not hire people for a year or two. They make an investment in a person that goes over a long period of time."

That too was a bit of a dodge. So Romney was asked again: "Would you be OK with seeing the payroll tax cuts?"

"Look, I don't like temporary little Band-Aids, I want to fundamentally restructure America's foundation economically."

The ridiculing of the payroll tax cut (of which the GOP has never been a big fan) quickly became the basis of a DNC attack campaign against Romney. His subsequent revision of his position seems likely to feed another round of attacks, certainly considering that earlier in the debate, Romney was declaring himself a "man of steadiness and constancy."

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@ jonward11 : Perry: "from time to time you may forget about an agency that needs to be zeroed out"

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Gingrich may claim to have never been a lobbyist, but it would be more accurate to say that he just hasn't registered as one. That hasn't stopped him from getting up to some lobbyist-like tricks! ThinkProgress reported on a litany of such activity back in February of last year:

– Gingrich Meets With Lawmakers To Help Craft Specific Policy, Legislation: In March 2009, Gingrich met with Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and other members of the GOP Doctors Caucus to help write conservative health reform alternative legislation. “Gingrich provided us with great insight as we work to craft health care solutions for the 21st Century,” proclaimed Gingrey after the meeting. As FireDogLake has reported, through his CHT firm, Gingrich wrote healthcare legislation introduced by Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA). Gingrich’s CHT also “consulted” with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) on health reform legislation that would deregulate the insurance industry. As the American Spectator reported, the Coburn-Ryan bill also contained the exact health IT proposals backed by Gingrich.

– Gingrich Helps Clients Obtain Specific Financial Opportunities From Legislation: As Business Week reported, Gingrich and his CHT firm worked with health IT firms like IBM and Microsoft “on how to grab some of the .6 billion in federal stimulus money.” The article notes that Gingrich helps “open doors” on Capitol Hill for his business clients.

– Gingrich Advises Lawmakers On Legislative Strategy: According to the New York Times, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) discusses strategy on a “regular basis” with Gingrich. Throughout 2009, Gingrich attended whip meetings with the GOP caucus to “educate” rank and file Republican lawmakers on the health reform debate. Gingrich provides “Newtgrams” — constant e-mails and messages with tactical advice — to a vast array of Republican legislators in both the House and Senate. By helping the GOP kill health reform, Gingrich is also assisting his health insurance clients, which all oppose reform.

– Gingrich Coordinates Meetings Between Corporate Clients, Public Officials: In December 2009, Gingrich met with Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and industry partners to discuss potential Wall Street investments in health IT. A health IT trade magazine has noted that since 2007, Gingrich has worked to pair business leaders with influential lawmakers and government officials to promote health IT programs. In March 2009, Gingrich organized a conference to create an “innovative business matchmaking framework” between Israeli telehealth firms, American health insurance and health technology companies, and Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.

Gingrich's defense is basically his titanic self-regard:

According to lobbying guidelines, lobbying members of Congress counts as lobbying regardless if it necessarily benefits each client. Nevertheless, Gingrich defended his actions by stating that his lobbying is not technically lobbying because it “benefits the country at large.”

More here.

-- Jason Linkins

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After Herman Cain called House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "Princess Nancy," the former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party joked on Twitter that perhaps a better nickname for her would be "The Crabby Cunt from the California Coast," among other suggestions.

Todd Kincannon is a South Carolina lawyer and served as parliamentarian, general counsel and executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party between 2004 and 2010.

On Twitter, he also suggested that some better names for Pelosi would be "The Botox Bitch from Buggeryland" and "Nancy the Crooked Whore":

Kincannon was directing his comments at Twitter user TeresaKopec, who was arguing with him that his tweets were inappropriate.

-- Amanda Terkel

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Michele Bachmann made an unexpected comment when saying she would oppose the extension of the payroll tax cut after Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich said they would extend it. Bachmann said extending the cut, which is set to expire at the end of the year, would hurt the Social Security fund. Obama requested the payroll tax cut as part of his proposed jobs bill.

"President Obama clearly did this for political reasons," she said. "That's why he did it. And so I had made that warning then, because we have actually already run Social Security in the red. We're not just about to, we already have."

"We have baby-boomers in their peak earning years," she continued. "This is when money should be flooding into the Social Security trust fund. Instead, they're already in the red."

--Elise Foley

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HuffPost Hill's Twitter feed, run by Eliot Nelson, sparked a #PerryStatements hashtag following the Texas governor's awkward inability to name the third federal department he planned to eliminate.

The tweets that started it:

@HuffPostHill: "Read my lips: No new .... uh....I honestly can't remember" #PerryStatements

@huffposthill: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your .... uh, oh God, give me a moment." #PerryStatements

It gets easy:

@ryanjreilly: "The price of freedom is eternal... something or the other" #PerryStatements

Click here for more #PerryStatements.

And sign up for HuffPost Hill.

-- Ryan Grim

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New Hampshire Republican political strategist Patrick Griffin is tweeting the end of Rick Perry's candidacy after the Texas governor could not remember the third agency he wanted to abolish during the debate. According to the Exeter Patch live blog, Griffin tweeted:

"Oh God Perry is having a tough night! This is THE END!!! #cnbcdebate #FITN"

"We have been slowly watching Rick Perry lose this race almost from the time he entered it. Tonight he's now officially "toast" #cnbcdebate"

Griffin is the chairman and CEO of Griffing, York and Krause and a senior fellow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anslem College. As a media consultant, Griffin has worked for Romney, President George W. Bush and his father, and former Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.).

Jim Splaine, a former Democratic state legislator in New Hampshire, did defend Perry on the live blog. Splaine said he believes that Perry could still have legs after tonight. "Perry's ads can offset his poor debate performances, and the New Hampshire forums when people will be watching are still ahead of them," Splaine wrote.

-- John Celock

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry forgot the three agencies he would like to eliminate if he becomes president, in what will no doubt be one of the most memorable moments of the debate and will likely secure Perry's reputation as a weak, erratic debater. He received some assistance from Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) -- who helpfully tried to give him some suggestions -- and when he was just totally unable to come up with the names of the agencies, he ended with a simple, "Oops":

PERRY: I will tell you, it is three agencies of government when I get there that are gone. Commerce, Education, and the -- What's the third one there? Let's see.

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: Five.

PERRY: Five. Okay. Commerce, Education, and the --

[UNKNOWN]: EPA?

PERRY: EPA. There you go.

Q: Seriously -- is EPA one you are talking about?

PERRY: No, sir, no, sir. We are talking about the -- agencies of government -- EPA needs to be rebuilt.

Q: You can't -- you can't name the third one?

PERRY: The third agency of government I would -- I would do away with Education, the --

Q: Commerce.

PERRY: Commerce and, let's see. I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops.

About 15 minutes later in the debate, Perry said he meant to say that the Department of Energy is the third agency he wanted to eliminate.

-- Amanda Terkel

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John Harwood asks Newt Gingrich about the time he was on the Freddie Mac payroll, to the tune of 0,000. "What did you do for that money?"

After a delay, Gingrich insisted, "I offered them advice on precisely what they didn't do." Harwood kept at it, questioning Gingrich on whether or not he was involved in an effort to "fend off the effort by the Bush administration...to curb Freddie Mac."

GINGRICH: I have never done any lobbying. Every contract was written during the period when I was out of the office, specifically said I would do no lobbying, and I offered advice. And my advice was as a historian, when they walked in and said to me, "We are now making loans to people who have no credit history and have no record of paying back anything, but that's what the government wants us to do," as I said to them at the time, this is a bubble. This is insane. This is impossible.

-- Jason Linkins

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Attendees at the Oakland Center debate watch party in Michigan favor Newt Gingrich's and Mitt Romney's answers on health care, according to the Rochester-Rochester Hills Patch live blog.

Instant poll results from debate watch party participants about health care.

  • Romney: 29 percent
  • Gingrich: 29 percent
  • Paul: 20 percent
  • Bachmann: 7 percent
  • Santorum: 4 percent
  • Cain: 4 percent
  • Huntsman: 4 percent
  • Perry 2 percent

-- John Celock

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Herman Cain called House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "Princess Nancy" when criticizing her for not bringing up Rep. Tom Price's (R-Ga.) health care legislation, known as HR 3000, while she was speaker of the House.

When asked what he would do on health care reform if the Affordable Care Act is repealed, Cain replied:

Legislation has already been written -- HR 3000. In the previous Congress, it was HR 3400. What that does is -- it has already been written. We didn't hear about it in the previous Congress because Princess Nancy sent to it committee and it stayed there. It never came out. HR 3000 allows the decisions to be with the doctors and patients, not with the bureaucrat in Washington, D.C.

The audience laughed at Cain's remark.

Former Bush administration spokeswoman Dana Perino tweeted in support of Pelosi after Cain's comment, writing, "Ay yi yi, former Speaker Pelosi called a princess in the debate? Not fair. We may disagree on policy, but she earned the Speaker title."

Cain is currently facing allegations of sexual harassment from several women, dating from his time heading the National Restaurant Association.

Earlier in the debate, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) called Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod "General Axelrod."

"He should be going to job creators if he wants to know how to create jobs," Bachmann said of President Obama. "Instead, he continues to go to a General Axelrod in Chicago to look for his orders to figure out how to deal with the economy. That won't work."

-- Amanda Terkel

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For context on Michele Bachmann's Happy Meal tax, she isn't alone. The GOP members of the super committee want to raise revenue by broadening the tax base to include more people, raising about 0 billion. And of course, the push to tax the poor and working class has been a growing Republican dream. Ironically, many of the Americans who pay no federal income taxes do so because the federal government gives them tax credits to help feed their children.

-- Mike McAuliff

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Jon Huntsman is not going to go over well with the GOP base, as per usual. Tonight, he's calling for what amounts to a transaction tax on the big Wall Street banks. It's an idea that would win you plenty of support from both Bill Gates and Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. As it happens, it was going to be a part of the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform bill, until Huntsman's party led the effort to kill it. Here's Cyrus Sanati, at CNNMoney:

A financial transaction tax is not a novel idea. Actually, the U.S. had such a tax from 1914 to 1966, when the tax forced investors to pay a small fee every time they executed a trade. It was intended not only to raise revenue for the government, but also to deter excessive speculation. Congress has flirted with the idea of resurrecting the tax in some shape or form ever since it went away back in the 60s, but there has never been enough support for one.

The damage such a tax could bring to Wall Street profits is pretty clear. The tax would undoubtedly decrease trading volume, which would hurt the bottom lines of broker dealers. It would also deliver a whack to the exchanges, which depend on high trading volumes to deliver profits for their investors.

A financial transaction tax has been proposed twice in the last five years. Such a tax almost made it into the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory bill but there wasn't enough bi-partisan support to get it through committee.

As Sanati notes, one week ago, "Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced legislation that would impose a tax on equities and bonds at 3 basis points per transaction." Huntsman may be in favor of such a thing, but he'll find little support for it among GOP primary voters.

-- Jason Linkins

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry just attempted to take credit for the relatively robust home prices in his state. It's true that Texas has not seen the dramatic home price declines that many other states have seen -- and that's exactly why the jobs crisis in Texas has been nowhere near as severe as that in many other states.

Perry routinely attempts to take credit for his state's relatively low unemployment rate, currently about one percentage point below the national average. But jobs are closely correlated with housing -- the fact that home prices never exploded in Texas the way they did in California or Florida is a result of where banks decided to start pumping out loads of exotic loans. Perry, in other words, got lucky. Had banks bombarded his state with lousy mortgages, he'd be facing a much more severe jobs crisis today -- alongside a brutal decline in housing prices.

-- Zach Carter

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Throughout 2009, senior White House officials were insisting that the way to solve the housing crisis was to get the economy going again. But with the housing problem itself slowing down the economy, we're still sitting at 9 percent unemployment and the housing situation is only getting worse. Two years later, Romney is singing the same tune as those White House aides, arguing that by focusing on jobs, the housing crisis will resolve itself.

Asked why his economic policy proposal didn't deal with housing, Romney quipped, "Because it's not a housing plan, it's a jobs plan. The best thing you can do for housing is to get the economy going."

"You have to let the market work," he said, echoing his earlier suggestion that foreclosures should be rushed so that the market could hit bottom. "The best way for that to happen is to allow this economy to reboot."

CNBC host Steve Liesman seemed concerned, confronted with a business-friendly candidate apparently uninterested in government action to ease the housing slide. Liesman pointed to the ongoing housing collapse.

"Exactly what would you do instead?" Liesman wondered in disbelief.

"Market's work," Romney promised. "When you have government play it's heavy hand, markets blow up and people get hurt."

Just wait, said Romney. "You'll see home prices come back up," he said.

-- Ryan Grim

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Attendees at the Oakland Center debate watch party in Michigan believe Newt Gingrich has the best housing plan, according to the Rochester-Rochester Hills Patch live blog.

Instant Poll results from debate watch party attendees about candidates' housing plans:

  • Gingrich: 31 percent
  • Romney: 29 percent
  • Cain: 18 percent
  • Bachmann 14 percent
  • Paul: 3 percent
  • Perry: 3 percent
  • Huntsman: 1 percent
  • Santorum: 1 percent

-- John Celock

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To put those opening CNBC graphics about struggling Michigan in context -- in Rochester, Mich., where the debate is actually taking place:

-- Population is 11,017.

-- There are 298 unemployed residents.

-- The median household income is ,959, up from ,179 in 2000 (adjusted for inflation).

-- The median home value is 8,200, up from 0,700 in 2000.

-- 4.2 percent of the families fall below the poverty level; this increased from 0.6 percent in 2000.

(All data is from the 2010 American Community Survey.)

-- Simone Landon

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Michele Bachmann defended her plan to extend federal income tax to everyone, even if they pay as little as per year. She said the current system, under which 47 percent of people pay federal income taxes, is unfair because even those who do not pay federal income taxes benefit from the government. The 47 percent figure applies only to federal income taxes, not state income taxes, payroll taxes, sales taxes and other local taxes.

"Even if it means paying the price of two Happy Meals a year, , everyone can afford to pay at least that," she said.

Bachmann said the current tax code will not help to create jobs, adding a jab at Obama's political adviser David Axelrod.

"President Obama's plan for job creation has absolutely nothing to do with the true people who know how to create jobs," she said. "He should really be going to job creators if he wants to know how to create jobs. Instead, he continues to go to General Axelrod in Chicago to look for his orders on how to deal with the economy."

-- Elise Foley

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Economic policy debates and watch party observations are lighting up live blogs set up by Patch sites in New Hampshire and Michigan. In the Exeter Patch live blog, two former state legislators and a former Republican congressional candidate have gone from discussing the economic plans of the presidential candidates to debating their own economic ideas. Jim Splaine is defending regulations, while Fran Wendelboe and Jennifer Horn are calling for cutting back regulations to spur economic growth.

On the Rochester-Rochester Hills Patch live blog near the debate site in Michigan, reporters at debate watch parties indicated that the most support there was for the economic plans advanced by Ron Paul, Herman Cain and Mitt Romney, and that Newt Gingrich's plan garnered applause. Cain's response that "politicians raise taxes" got cheers at one watch party, while moderators were booed for asking about sexual harassment allegations against Cain.

-- John Celock

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Hermain Cain, who served as a director of the Kansas City Federal Reserve during the 1990s, did not suggest any role for the U.S. central bank in combating the ballooning debt crisis in Europe.

During the financial crisis of 2008, the Fed opened "swap lines" with foreign central banks, effectively printing money in order to bailout banks abroad. The Fed is doing the same thing today, as the fiscal and banking crisis again reaches a head in Europe.

Cain, a former Fed official, neither condemned nor applauded such activity. Nor did he acknowledge that the Fed typically plays a major role in easing financial calamities abroad. Instead, Cain said U.S. policymakers should focus on the U.S. economy, rather than involve itself in the financial affairs of foreign banks and nations. CNBC moderators John Harwood and Jim Cramer noted that a banking collapse in Europe could have significant repercussions for the U.S. banking system and the American economy.

-- Zach Carter

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he believes corporations can be both profitable and create jobs, saying, "They better be. That's the reason the tax plan that I laid out -- a 20 percent flat tax on the personal side and 20 percent corporate tax rate -- that will get people working in this country. We need to go out there and stick a big old flag in the middle of America that says, 'Open for business again.'"

The geographical center of the lower 48 states is Lebanon, Kansas. As of the 2010 census, the population is 218 people. If Hawaii and Alaska are included, the geographic center of the United States is on uninhabited pastureland.

Seems like there would be plenty of room for a flag.

-- Amanda Terkel

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Rick Santorum defended his earlier suggestion that manufacturers pay zero federal tax, a policy that amounts to a dramatic subsidy of manufacturing relative to other industries. The American left has long been calling for the federal government to implement some type of "industrial policy" with the same end, strongly backed by organized labor. Is Rick Santorum trying to be the far-left candidate in the GOP primary? He later returned to the subject, noting that his grandfather was a coal miner.

-- Ryan Grim

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