Herman Cain brushed off the notion in the GOP debate Wednesday that the allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior that were lodged against him in the 1990s will feed questions about his character that could derail his chances of becoming the next president.
“The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations,” Mr. Cain said, sparking an applause for the crowd gathered at debate at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. “They’re saying they don’t care about the character assassination, they care about leadership and getting this economy growing and all of the other problems we face.”
The remarks were an early reminder that it was the first time the presidential candidates had stood on the same stage since news organizations reported accusations by four different women of sexually inappropriate behavior on Mr. Cain’s part.
But the first question the night fielded by Mr. Cain and the candidates focused on what role they think the United States should play in helping Italy pull itself out of a financial mess that played a hand in the Dow Jones industrial average dropping more than 400 points Wednesday.
“There’s not a lot that the United States can directly do for Italy right now because they’re really way beyond the point of return that we as the United States can save them,” Mr. Cain said.
Mr. Romney also warned against a potential bailout, saying “Europe is able to take care of their own problems.”
“We don’t want to step in and try and bail out their banks and bail out their governments,” he said.
The debate was the ninth of the race, but the first in three weeks. During that time Mr. Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich climbed in the polls, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry slid following poorly reviewed debate performances.
Mr. Perry stumbled again when he turned to Mr. Paul and started to emphatically explain that he planned on cutting three federal agencies - the department of commerce, the department of education and then he drew a blank on the third agency he had in his crosshairs.
The Environmental Protection Agency? some of his rivals asked, before moderator John Hardwood posed the question directly to Mr. Perry, “You can’t name the third agency?”
Mr. Perry fumbled around with what appeared to be notes on the podium in front of him, eventually gave up. “I can’t,” he said, adding “oops.” The next time around, though, he remembered it was the Department of Energy that “I was reaching for a while ago.”
Mr. Gingrich, meanwhile, continued to ridicule some of the questions tossed in his direction, though he suggested the nation’s student loan program had failed and shared Mr. Romney’s view that Congress should support the president’s call to extend the 2 percent payroll-tax cut for another year
“I’m not prepared to raise taxes on working Americans in the middle of a recession that’s this bad,” Mr. Gingrich said.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann said she opposed an extension, warning it will continue to blow a hole in the Social Security trust fund.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman also took part in the the debate.