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Republicans Face Off in Las Vegas Debate

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry speak during a Republican presidential debate October 18, 2011, in Las Vegas.
Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry speak during a Republican presidential debate October 18, 2011, in Las Vegas.
Elizabeth Lee

Tuesday night's Republican presidential debate took place in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Although the former chief executive of a national pizza franchise, Herman Cain, was expected to face strong scrutiny because of his popularity among Republicans, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry took center stage throughout most of the debate with strong exchanges of words and even personal insults. 

The debate started with Herman Cain defending his  9-9-9 plan to revamp the U.S. tax code.  Since the last Republican debate, Cain - the only African American Republican candidate and former chief executive of Godfather’s Pizza - has shot to the top of the polls as a favorite for Republicans.  

"It is a jobs plan.  It is revenue neutral," Cain said, defending his plan. "It does not raise taxes on those that are making the least all of those are simply not true.  The reason that our plan is being attacked so much is because lobbyists, accountants, politicians, they don't want to throw out the current tax code and put in something that's simple and fair."

The other candidates, including Texas Governor Rick Perry attacked Cain’s plan, saying tax payers will end up paying more.

"Herman, I love you brother, but let me tell you something you don’t have to have a big analysis to figure this thing out. Go to New Hampshire where they don’t have a sales tax and you are fixing to give them one. They’re not interested in 9-9-9," Perry said.

Much of the rest of the debate was highlighted by the tough words and sometimes personal attacks from Texas governor Rick Perry toward former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.  Here is the exchange between the two on immigration.

“Those people that hire illegals ought to be penalized and Mitt you lose all of your standing from my perspective because you hire illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year and the idea that you stand here before us and talk about you’re strong on immigration is, on its face, the height of hypocrisy,” Perry said.

"Rick, I don’t think I’ve ever hired an illegal in my life," responded Romney.  "I’m looking forward to finding your facts on that because that just doesn’t [both speak at once]."

Romney later said the immigrants in question were employees of the lawn service he had hired, when he found out they were not in the United States legally, he fired the lawn service.  

Just before the end of the debate, Rick Perry tried to contrast his record of creating jobs in Texas, with one last jab at Romney.

"So, Mitt, while you were the governor of Massachusetts in that period of time you were 47th in the nation in job creation during that same period of time we created 20 times more jobs," Perry said.  "As a matter of fact, you created 40,000 more jobs total in your four years, last two months we created more than that in Texas."

"As regard to the record in Texas, you probably also ought to tell people if you look over the last several years 40 percent almost half of the jobs created in Texas were created for illegal aliens, illegal immigrants," Romney retorted.

"That is absolute falsehood, on its face, Mitt," said Perry. " That’s what Americans are looking for they’re looking for somebody that they can trust that knows to have the executive governing experience.  I’ve got it you failed as the governor of Massachusetts."

The candidates will have a few weeks to see whether these strong words will help or hurt them.  The next Republican presidential debate will be in November.

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