Ken Tucker
November 09, 2011 AT 12:00 PM EST

The Republican debate televised on CNBC on Wednesday night featured eight candidates engaged in an economics-themed tussle that will probably be overshadowed in the media by a Rick Perry gaffe and Herman Cain on the sexual-harassment defense. It took a mere 20 minutes for one of the questioners, Maria Bartiromo, to ask Cain about his extra-economic troubles. There were boos from the Michigan audience when she did, and cheers when the questioning was steered back to the issues.

The candidates — Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum — to a man and woman, all said they’d repeal “Obamacare” and condemned just about everything else President Obama has done except overseeing the death of Osama bin Laden. Romney condemned “the most political administration you’ve seen in modern history.” (!) Gingrich lofted his insults to the higher conservatives, chiding Obama for his “Saul Alinsky radicalism … and class warfare.”

After Gingrich made disparaging remarks about the media coverage of the economy, Bartiromo asked, “What is the media reporting inaccurately about the economy?” Gingrich’s condescension was breathtaking: “What?” he said in mock disbelief. “I love humor disguised as a question. That’s terrific… I have yet to hear a single reporter ask a single Occupy Wall Street person a single rational question about the economy.”

Michele Bachmann barely registered in this debate. Asked about how she’d spread taxes around, she replied that “everyone needs to pay something… Everyone can afford to pay the equivalent of two Happy Meals a year.” Can I get a “No, some people can’t, and some people can afford a whole lot more” here?

Okay, let’s get to the defensiveness and the gaffes.

Cain, addressing his harassment charges, said, “The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations.” The crowd cheered lustily.

Perry, trying to work up a head of steam about how much government he’d wipe out if elected, fizzled out quickly: “It’s three agencies of government, when I get [elected], that are gone: commerce, education, and, the –uh — what’s the third one there? … Commerce, education, and the uh, the uh… the third agency of government I would do away with — education, the, uh, commerce, and let’s see — I can’t. The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” Oops indeed. Later he amended his oops: “By the way, that was the Department of Energy I was reaching for a while ago.”

Among the questioners, Jim Cramer was intensely annoying, delivering his questions with yelled barking — this clown should have been tucked into a CNBC closet during the debate.

Did you watch the Republican debate?

Twitter: @kentucker

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