What Happened In Vegas: Candidates Feel The Heat In GOP Debate

October 19, 2011 9:49 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

As expected, last night's CNN Western Republican Presidential Debate started with several candidates taking shots at Herman Cain and his 9-9-9 tax plan. Cain struggled under the heightened criticism, insisting that his plan does not increase taxes on the poor despite his recent admission that it does, and repeatedly charging his critics of comparing "apples and oranges." Cain also doubled down on his statement that the unemployed should "blame yourself," drawing wild applause from the GOP crowd, and reversed himself on a statement he made just hours before the debate about negotiating with terrorists.

But the most memorable moments of the debate were probably two testy exchanges featuring former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. First, things got heated after Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused Romney of having "hired illegals." Romney demanded evidence, which is readily available, and defended his anti-immigration credentials by denouncing Texas' law allowing undocumented immigrants to receive in-state tuition. Later, Rick Santorum attacked Romney over the health care law he passed in Massachusetts, prompting Romney to dishonestly claim he never supported using his plan as a model for the country.

Romney also claimed, "I want to reduce taxes on middle-income families," even though his tax plan disproportionately favors the rich and his "middle-class" tax cut would not actually help most of the middle class. Meanwhile, Romney's false assertion that President Obama "doesn't have a jobs plan" was particularly odd given the president's aggressive push for the American Jobs Act.

Elsewhere, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) invoked "anchor babies" in response to a question about the 14th Amendment, while misleading about the economic impact of immigration. And Perry, trying to stop his Bachmann-like collapse in the polls, dubiously claimed that his energy plan would create 1.2 million jobs.   

Watch the highlights below. 

Cain: My Plan "Does Not Raise Taxes On Those Making The Least"

Cain Accuses Critics Of Comparing "Apples And Oranges"

Cain Stands By "Blame Yourself" Statement

Cain Wavers On Negotiating With Terrorists

Perry And Romney Duke It Out Over Illegal Immigration

Romney Attacks TX In-State Tuition Law...Again

Santorum And Romney Clash Over Health Care

Romney: "I Want To Reduce Taxes On Middle-Income Families"

Romney: The President "Doesn't Have A Jobs Plan"

Bachmann On The 14th Amendment: "The Issue That You're Referring To Is The Issue Of Anchor Babies"

Michele Bachmann Misleads On Economic Effect Of Immigrants

Perry Claims His Energy Plan Would Create 1.2 Million Jobs