Thursday night, the Fox News Channel held the first, nationally televised debate of Republican presidential candidates. According to many observers, as well as a focus group moderated by Frank Luntz, Herman Cain walked away as the big winner of the night. Ron Paul had a loud cheering section in the studio audience in Greenville, South Carolina. Also in attendance were Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum and Gary Johnson. The big loser of the night was Mitt Romney, who decided not to participate. Many TV pundits, as well as those in the Luntz focus group, believe that Romney erred in not attending.

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Herman Cain was the Man of the Hour last night at the first GOP presidential primary debate for 2012. Image Credit: Carrie Devorah / WENN.com.

Herman Cain is a businessman and talk radio host from Atlanta, Georgia. The former executive of Burger King and CEO of the Godfather Pizza chain gave sharp, crisp answers without the usual political rhetoric. The Luntz focus group consisted of 29 South Carolina Republicans, all of whom intend to vote in next year′s primary. At the beginning of the night, only one member of the group supported Cain. But by the end of the debate. More than half now consider him a serious candidate and are interested in him. About six people who claimed to by Romney supporters said they are now switching to Herman Cain.

Cain, a favorite guest speaker at Tea Party rallies, might now become the ′dark horse′ whom emerges from the seemingly lack-luster field of GOP contenders. Both Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump also passed on attending the Fox News debate as both have yet to officially declare. Tim Pawlenty, who did attend and had been considered a front-runner, came off as weak when answering some questions about his past positions, particularly on carbon cap and trade. Rick Santorum continued to focus his attention on Religious-Right social issues while Ron Paul and Gary Johnson tried to prove which of them was more Libertarian.

So this left the barn door open for Herman Cain to steal the show with his common sense, business-like approach to the nation′s problems. When asked about something he didn’t know, such as a question on the use of the military, Cain gave a sensible answer free of speculation or hyperbole. I, myself, was leaning towards him last night up until he said he supported the Fair Tax. While I agree that we need drastic reform of our tax code, the Fair Tax is not the right path to choose. A Flat Tax would be much better. All of the candidates last night believe that Barack Obama is vulnerable with oil and gas prices so high and such awful job numbers this week, returning the unemployment rate to 9%.

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