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2012: Reach out and touch someone

The Boston Globe’s front-page photo is Mitt Romney with his hand on Rick Perry’s shoulder.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal does the same.

Bloomberg’s lead: “Herman Cain fought to stay in the top tier of the Republican presidential field as Rick Perry tried to recapture the role of Mitt Romney’s chief tormentor in an anger-tinged debate that spotlighted the sharpening contours of the primary contest.”

“The GOP presidential candidates took off the gloves and went straight for the jugular Tuesday in a no-holds-barred debate that signaled a Republican field frantic to differentiate themselves before it’s too late,” The Hill writes.

The New York Times: “It was the most acrimonious debate so far this year. Marked by raised voices, accusations of lying and acerbic and personal asides, it signaled the start of a tough new phase of the primary campaign a little more than two months before the first votes are cast. Mr. Romney responded aggressively to the attacks and sometimes testily. Once, after Mr. Perry spoke over him, he turned to the debate moderator, Anderson Cooper of CNN, to plead, ‘Anderson?’”

“After five debates in six weeks, the race for the Republican presidential nomination will soon shift to a new phase, one focused on states with early primaries and caucuses and dominated by retail campaign skills and television commercials rather than by prepared sound bites and testy exchanges on a debate stage,” the Washington Post’s Dan Balz notes. “Debates have shaped the Republican race, perhaps as never before in a nomination battle. But after all the debates, the race now stands almost exactly where it was when these forums began, with the party’s rank and file trying to decide whether it can learn to love former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney while wondering if a more appealing Mr. or Ms. Right will appear to challenge him.”

The Washington Post fact-checked last night’s debate: On Herman Cain: “Cain is flat wrong when he asserts it will ‘not raise taxes on those making the least.’” But says Perry muffed the details of Cain’s plan. And on Perry claiming not to be for TARP, “Perry appears to have been for the bailout before he was against it.” On Romney hiring illegal immigrants: “While Romney had said he took care of the matter, the Globe reported a year later that the company still employed illegal immigrants on Romney’s property. That’s when he finally fired it.”

AP also fact checks Cain that 9-9-9 won’t raise taxes on those making the least: “The Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank, said Cain's plan would increase taxes on 84 percent of U.S. households, hitting low- and medium-income households the hardest.” On Romney and illegal immigrants: “The truth is that Romney, former Massachusetts governor, never directly hired an illegal immigrant. But he hired a landscaping company that employed them. … But in 2007, during the height of his first Republican presidential campaign, the same company was caught employing illegal immigrants at Romney's home. Romney then fired the landscaper.”

CAIN: He told reporters in the spin room after the debate that he "misspoke" in his answer on releasing hostages from Guantanamo to save one American soldier, NBC’s Carrie Dann reports. Cain said he got mixed up with Israel. "Mea culpa," he said. He said as much on CNN after the debate once the clip was played for him. “I misspoke,” he said, blaming it on moving too fast.”

NBC’s Ali Weinberg reported from a Cain watch party in South Carolina that supporters said he needed more time to explain his plan and defended him in spite of independent analyses showing the only ones who would benefit from 9-9-9 are the wealthy. “Everybody was piling on him,” said Snuffy Sharpe of Columbia. “But if you actually have gone to his website, and I have gone to his website, it’s better than what we’ve got now.” Steve Tuel, also of Columbia, said, “I think the 9-9-9, on the one hand it’s a good slogan, it’s catchy. On the other hand there’s a lot of deep things that are hard to discuss in a short sound bite.” MOS 6: Leah Herod, of Columbia, said, “There needs to be a way for him to explain what’s in his plan in a more simplistic way. He didn’t have a long enough time frame to have a rebuttal for some of the stuff that the other candidates mentioned in the 9-9-9 plan. I think that there needs to be more time to elaborate and clarify what the plans.”

The New York Post notes that Cain only has one paid staffer in New Hampshire, a retired teacher from Pennsylvania.

Was Jesus a conservative? Herman Cain says so, calling him “the perfect conservative.” “He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed the hungry without food stamps,” he wrote in a RedState entry, per GOP 12. “For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check. Nevertheless, he completed all the work He needed to get done.”

HUNTSMAN: He gets this favorable story from the New Hampshire Union Leader: “Republican Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman - skipping a Nevada debate in a show of support for New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary - told a standing-room-only crowd of about 250 that the United States needs long-term solutions to its economic woes.”

PERRY: Indicating how well the Perry campaign thought it did, it sent out a press release after the debate claiming he “dominates” the debate. Dann notes that there were statements like that one after the last couple debates in which Perry struggled.

Perry will be in Washington, DC, Friday for private meetings on economic and foreign policy, the campaign confirmed to NBC’s Dann. Perry will fly to Iowa later that evening.

ROMNEY: The Boston Globe’s Johnson’s analysis of the debate: “Romney largely succeeded in repelling the attacks on substantive grounds, but the sustained, heated criticism exposed the former CEO’s tendency to bristle when he loses control of a situation. And Romney’s visible anger laid bare a side of his personality many in the national audience had not seen during this campaign, running counter to the composed, statesmanlike image he has cultivated throughout his second bid for the White House.”

“Presidential candidate Mitt Romney faced withering attacks from GOP debate rivals last night over the health care plan he spearheaded in Massachusetts, his perceived proclivity for switching positions, and his former lawn company’s use of illegal immigrants to mow the lawn at his Belmont home four years ago,” the Boston Globe writes. The Globe notes that when the subject of hiring illegal immigrants came up, he “became clearly irritated” and that his “frustration turned to mocking.” The exchange also highlighted “the apparent animosity Romney and Perry have for one another.” And the Globe writes that Romney “made a rare tactical misstep,” when he pivoted to talk about health care, which gave an opening for the other candidates to pile on.

One issue that incredibly didn’t come up was Romney’s comments yesterday on foreclosures before the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review Journal, in a state with the highest rate of foreclosures – 1 in 118 homes. Romney said, per NBC’s Garrett Haake, "As to what to do for the housing industry specifically, are there things that you can do to encourage housing. One is don't try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up. Let it turn around and come back up. The Obama administration has slow walked the foreclosure processes that have long existed, and as a result we still have a foreclosure overhang."

He also said the homebuyer tax credit was a "ineffective idea" that he compared to cash for clunkers. As for what positive steps could be taken, Romney was warmer to the Idea of helping people refinance homes to stay in them is an idea "worth further consideration" but that he won't sign on until he knows "who's going to pay, and who is going to get bailed out."

The DNC goes after Romney with a Web video highlighting his record on health care and illegal immigration, including his quote, “We said, ‘Look, you can’t have any illegals working on our property. I’m running for office for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”

Political Wire gives that it’s Quote of the Day.

The Perry campaign put out a press release after the debate titled, “Romney is a fraud on immigration.”

“New Hampshire Republicans intensified calls yesterday for presidential candidate Mitt Romney to boycott the caucuses in Nevada, a move that could imperil his campaign’s strategy for early nominating contests,” the Boston Globe writes.

Romney’s holding a DC fundraiser next Thursday, hosted at “the headquarters of the American Trucking Association and is being co-hosted by a dozen lobbyists,” Roll Call reports. “The Members listed as planning to attend have all endorsed Romney’s bid for the GOP presidential nomination and include Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), Orrin Hatch (Utah) and James Risch (Idaho), as well as Reps. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Joe Heck (Nev.) and Todd Rokita (Ind.).”