It was the "oops" heard round the world. Rick Perry's brain freeze Wednesday night was clearly the main headline from the latest GOP debate. But it wasn't the only one.
If Perry was the big loser at the CNBC debate, Herman Cain was the big winner, according to Jeffrey Bell, a former campaign adviser to President Ronald Reagan and currently policy director at the American Principles Project.
"[Cain] had the highest stakes" coming into the debate given the intense scrutiny surrounding multiple charges of sexual harassment, Bell says. "The fact not only did he do well but the audience sided with him in terms of wanting to get back to the issues was a tremendous win for him."
Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich also fared well Wednesday night, according to most observers.
But by focusing so intensely on lowering taxes and cutting regulation, Bell says the GOP candidates collectively missed an opportunity to connect with the American people on the issue that matters most of all: Jobs. (See: GOP Debate Preview: What Do Voters in Detroit Want? JOBS)
"This banking and monetary crisis started in 2007 [and] had very little to do with the budget or deficit situation or the level of tax rates," he says. "Voters sense reforming the tax code and addressing the deficits is somewhat beside the point of what is troubling the economy. The banking system is ill, if not in a terminal state."
To Bell, who is not formally aligned with any of the candidates, the critical element needed to reinvigorate the economy is reforming the Fed and returning the country to a gold standard, which we'll discuss in more detail in part two of this interview. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have focused on related issues in their campaigns, and again last night, but the GOP debate mainly focused on lowering taxes and repealing Obama-era regulations as the panacea to what ails the economy.
As for Perry, Bell says Wednesday's poor performance isn't necessarily a deathblow to his campaign. But the Texas Governor must continue debating rather than skipping future contests as previously suggested because "that can't be the final note of your debate performance."