Okay, the lead item from CNBC’s debate last night was that Texas Governor Rick Perry forgot one of the three federal agencies he would eliminate. It was painful.

I didn’t think it was that bad because the poor guy just lost his train of thought. Has that never happened to you? It’s not as if he didn’t realize Eastern Europe was under Soviet domination. Perry also seemed good-natured, if justifiably embarrassed (he turned pleadingly to Rep. Ron Paul for help and actually said “oops”!).  

Still, the lapse may well prove fatal to Perry, who “acknowledged the gravity” of his mistake after the debate: Republicans will be hesitant after last night to send Perry into a general debate. Perry might have a better chance if he were not the second non-verbal Texas governor to emerge into the spotlight in recent memory.

The important thing is that Perry would eliminate the departments of education, commerce, and energy. I’d like to have heard him make the case for commerce and energy (many people would like to return education to the states). Message to Rick Perry: Life is unfair.

The embattled Herman Cain got uproarious applause and I maintain that his continued support does not mean the Republicans don’t care about sexual harassment. I believe it is a response to the politics of personal destruction.

Cain is not going to be the nominee but he has paid a terrible price for throwing his green felt cowboy hat into the ring. People feel bad about that and realize that destruction by media probably keeps many good people out of public life. If it turns out that Cain harassed or assaulted anybody (Sharon Bialek’s accusations rise way above the level of harassment), Republicans will stop clapping for him.

Cain was confident and charming last night, and how he managed I don’t know.  The worst gotcha-attempt was when panel member John Harwood made some smarmy comments about the importance of character and then asked Mitt Romney if, given the accusations against Cain’s character, he’d hire him.

Romney looked appropriately disgusted and said, “Herman is the person to answer these questions, and I think he just did.”  It was a good moment.  The audience made its disapproval of Harwood known. I have to say, last night left me wishing that the audience in the general debate would have some noisy folks like these (but it won’t).

The audience several times last night helped the candidates out by showing a proper disgust for the questions and condescension of the MSM questioners (madman stock picker Jim Cramer and Rick Santelli were the non-MSM people on the panel). The audience was great when Maria Bartiromo condescendingly asked Newt Gingrich if he’d “like to try” to answer a question (Newt had said it was the sort of complicated issue that required more than the allotted 30 seconds, but, annoyed by Bartiromo, he aced it in half a minute).

When asked about the economic troubles in Greece and Italy and how they can spread to the U.S., Cain came across as somebody who was just giving you a rote answer about how he’d make the U.S. economy better. Well, it was sort of the right answer, and not that unlike that of Romney, who said that Europe can take care of these problems without our help.

Though Rick Santorum engaged in some subtle digs at his fellow Republicans, the candidates seem to have gotten the message that it is not a good idea to attack each other and mostly stuck to criticizing President Obama.  I don't think anybody inadvertently produced an attack ad for the Democrats last night.

I think it is safe to say that all the other GOP hopefuls on the stage last night would go for more drastic tax reform than the one embodied in Romney’s more conventional approach. Gingrich, Cain, and Perry have all come out with flat tax plans to replace the current tax code.

Romney made one troubling remark—asked about some aspect of his tax plan, he said he wanted to use “precious dollars” to help the middle class that has been so hurt by the recession. Most of us believe that the answer is for the federal government to have few of our precious dollars. Romney must clarify that.   

But Romney scored points when he reiterated his position that foreclosures should be allowed to take their course and blamed our lousy economy and the bad housing market on “Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Barney Frank and Dodd Frank,” indicating that he would appeal the economically stultifying Dodd-Frank regulations.

I’d like to know more about the $300,000 Newt made consulting for Freddie Mac, but he turned in an impressive performance. When he attacked the media for not asking the right questions, Ms. Bartiromo–who appeared to be in a sour mood, perhaps even before she was booed for tormenting Cain–pressed him.

Coming right back at her, Newt said somebody in the media should ask Occupy Wall Street, “Who is going to pay for the park you are occupying if no business makes a profit?” Yes, that would be a good question.

I thought it was a good night for everybody but Perry, who was probably voted off the island. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum didn’t get to talk much. Still, Bachmann, asked why the debate had been so high-toned, praised the panelists for their demeanor.

Oh, c'mon, Michele. You of all people should know that it's impossible to butter up these folks!