One of the debate's moderators made sure he couldn't avoid it:

“You know that shareholders are reluctant to hire a CEO where there are character issues, why should the American people hire a president if they feel there are character issues?” Maria Bartiromo asked.

“The American people deserve better than someone being tried in the court of public opinion based on unfounded accusations,” Cain replied.

The audience booed as Romney was asked what he thought of Cain's answer:

“Herman Cain is the one to respond to these questions, he just did,” Romney said.

Then the crowd cheered, when a second moderator decided to redirect to the issue of the economy.

The debate also produced another low point for Rick Perry, who couldn’t remember the names of the three federal agencies he'd like to eliminate if elected.

"Oops" may now be the operative word for the Perry campaign.

And even in a debate about the economy, Herman Cain couldn't escape questions about his personal conduct. That was enough to make Cain the loser. No matter his answer, the story he wants to die continues to distract him.

The winner? Mitt Romney, because he stands to gain the most from the Cain controversy, and from Perry’s memory lapse.

This debate gives a clue to what's ahead for Herman Cain: more questions about his character.

Many republicans are looking for an alternative to Romney to vote for. But, after this debate, I think fewer of them will be looking at Cain, or rick Perry.

I’m Andy Hiller and that’s my instinct.

(Copyright (c) 2011 Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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