ROCHESTER, Mich. (AP) – United in agreement for once, Republican presidential rivals warned forcefully Wednesday night the United States could be doomed to the same sort of financial crisis that is afflicting Europe unless federal deficits are drastically cut and the economy somehow revived.
Though sexual harassment allegations facing Herman Cain have dominated the GOP campaign for more than a week, the debate in economically ailing Michigan focused almost entirely on financial worries and proposed solutions in the U.S.
The candidates generally stuck to practiced speech lines — with a late exception. In the middle of one answer, Texas Gov. Rick Perry found himself unable to recall the names of all three of the Cabinet-level agencies he wants to eliminate, even leaning over to Rep. Ron Paul for help at one point.
“The third agency of government I would do away with — the Education, the Commerce. And let’s see. I can’t. The third one I can’t. Oops,” he said, forgetting for a moment that he wants to abolish the Department of Energy.
The Cain accusations did come up, though briefly.
“The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion due to unfounded accusations,” he said when the question came up early in the debate. “I value my character and my integrity more than anything else. And for every one person that comes forward with an unfair accusation there are probably, there are thousands who come forward and say none of that ever happened with Herman Cain.”
The debate took place less than two months before Iowa’s kickoff caucuses, as the pace of campaign activity accelerates and public opinion polls suggest the race remains quite fluid. Romney and Cain currently share co-front-runner status in most surveys, with Perry and Gingrich roughly tied for third, within striking distance.