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Herman Cain grabbed the spotlight when GOP candidates sparred over the economy. From Perry’s phoned-in performance to Romney on the defensive, watch highlights.

Plus, Daily Beast contributors weigh in: who won the debate?

Romney Comes Out Swinging

Does Mitt Romney have Chris Christie to thank for his feistiness? After being endorsed by the New Jersey governor earlier Tuesday, Romney came out swinging—but not at his fellow candidates. The former Massachusetts governor went after the president right out of the gate. “Three years ago we selected a person who’d never had any leadership experience… He said he’d bring his hope and change. Instead, he’s divided the nation and tried to blame other people,” he said. We’re guessing Rick Perry was glad to catch a break.

Did Rick Perry Phone It In?

“Piñata” Perry no more? The Texas governor’s past debate performances have been criticized as fumbling and amateurish, so the pressure was on. After refusing to disavow Pastor Robert Jeffress’s comments that Mitt Romney is part of a Mormon “cult,” Perry left out the poker analogies Tuesday night for a more reticent performance. “One of the things that I laid out today—I think is a pretty bold plan—to put 1.2 million Americans working in the energy industry… You need a president with a plan, which I’m laying out over the next three days,” he said. Still, Perry managed to get in a jab at Romney, of course.

Gingrich: Bernanke Has ‘Secret Power’

Newt isn’t going to take it anymore. As he has in other debate performances, the former speaker spoke of his outrage at the media’s coverage of the recession. Before criticizing Ben Bernanke, Gingrich said Barney Frank and Chris Dodd should serve time in prison for their roles in the financial collapse. “The fix was put in by the federal government, and if you want to put people in jail… You ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and let’s look at the politicians who created the environment,” Gingrich said, adding that Bernanke has “still not been exposed” for secret spending.

Is Herman Cain the New GOP Star?

Move over, Romney, Cain might be here to stay. The pizza magnate turned surging politician spent most of Tuesday night touting his economic plan. Despite Cain’s refusal to identify his economic advisers—and saying he admired Alan Greenspan's run at the Federal Reserve, to Ron Paul’s dismay—the other candidates couldn’t stop talking about his 9-9-9 plan of proposed income, corporate, and national sales taxes. And the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO didn’t seem to mind: “The difference between the 9-9-9 plan and the other plans that are being proposed is that they pivot off of the existing tax code,” he said. Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, quipped that if you flip 9-9-9 upside down, “the devil’s in the details.”

9-9-9 Takes the Spotlight

When Cain wasn’t talking about his 9-9-9 plan, all the other candidates were. After Jon Huntsman joked that he thought the plan stood for the “price of pizza,” Rick Santorum said Cain’s proposal “could not pass,” running an impromptu poll to see which audience members would vote for the pizza magnate. “How many people here are for a sales tax in New Hampshire? Raise your hand,” the former Pennsylvania senator said, adding, “There you go, Herman. That’s how many votes you’ll get in New Hampshire.” Watch moderator Charlie Rose lose control of the candidates as 9-9-9 gets the better of the commercial break.

Romney’s 59-Point Plan in 60 Seconds

Call it Republican speed dating. Midway through the debate, each candidate was given an opportunity to ask a fellow 2012 hopeful a question relating to the economy. Naturally, it all came back to 9-9-9 when Cain asked Romney to explain his 160-page economic plan and whether it is “simple, transparent, efficient, fair, and neutral.” Romney accepted the challenge, reducing his proposal to seven pillars. “To put America on a path to be the most competitive place in the world to create jobs is going to take someone who knows how to do it, and it’s not one or two things. It’s a good number of things to get America strong,” the former Massachusetts governor said.

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What About the Mormon ‘Cult’ Controversy?

Here’s a way to stir the pot: Tuesday’s debate centered on the economy and job creation, but that didn’t stop Jon Huntsman from referencing Pastor Robert Jeffress’s anti-Mormon comments. After the Perry supporter said Romney was in a “cult,” the former Massachusetts governor called on Perry to disavow the pastor’s comments—and he refused. Huntsman, a Mormon himself, killed two birds with one stone during the questions portion, first calling out Perry then accusing Romney of being someone who “breaks down businesses, destroys jobs as opposed to creating jobs and opportunity, leveraging, up-spinning, often enriching shareholders.” Romney came back swinging: “My background is quite different than you describe, Jon. So the way I’ll win it is by telling people an accurate rendition of what I’ve done in my life.”