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Joe Klein scores last night’s Republican debate and makes a couple of underappreciated points. First:

Romney v. Cain — This was a clean kill for Romney, and an impressive bit of debating. He led the in-over-his-head Cain into a dialogue about apples and oranges, Cain’s chosen metaphor, as if the Hermanator were a third-grader. The Nevada state sales tax was an apple. The 9-9-9 sales tax was an orange. The citizens of Nevada would be paying both. QED and Sayonara.

Yep, this was the slickest bit of technical forensics we’ve seen yet in the Republican debate marathon. Romney just filleted Cain in that exchange — something that obviously slipped my mind last night when I said that no one really drew blood against Cain. Romney sure did. And I continue to think that Romney didn’t do badly in his testy exchange with Perry, either. The fact is that it’s next to impossible to score a clean win against someone who just flatly won’t shut up. But Romney did OK even so. There was the hand of dominance on Perry’s shoulder, there was the bit about Perry being “understandably” testy because he’d had a rough start to his campaign, and there was the fact that, eventually, he did get Perry to shut up — and to make Perry look like a recalcitrant child in the process. (Did you see the look on Perry’s face when he stopped talking? He looked only barely in control of himself. Definitely not presidential.)

And Klein also had this comment about the immigration exchanges:

It should also be noted that all this macho posturing about electrified fences, crocodiles etc. avoids the most basic fact about illegal immigration — it is down dramatically. The bad economy means there are fewer jobs to lure illegals. The efforts of the last several Presidents has significantly beefed up Border Patrol, fencing and high-tech surveillance. And the Obama Administration has been very tough on illegals — almost 400,000, a record, have been deported in the past year. [See here for more on this. –ed.]

Yep again. I don’t really have a big problem with beefing up the border patrol, but the real answer to illegal immigration (in the short term, anyway) is to lower the cost of legal immigration by boosting quota levels and to raise the cost of illegal immigration by making it unprofitable for employers to hire undocumented workers. That means getting E-verify to work and then tightening up the enforcement and penalties on employers who cheat. It will be interesting to see if the American public actually supports this once they see the results (no more cheap gardeners, no more cheap vegetables, etc.), but the basic idea is hardly impossible to implement.

On the other hand, I call a foul on Jay Newton-Small for this:

For a man in trouble for once upon a time leasing a hunting camp with a racially-charged name, should Rick Perry be calling Herman Cain “brother”? Or offering to bump fists with him? Perry certainly didn’t call any of the other candidates “brother” last night. Just saying….

Oh come on. Andrea Mitchell was going on about this on her show this morning too, and it’s ridiculous. “Brother” just sounds like a Southernism to me, and Perry said he’d “bump plans” with Cain, not bump fists. Let’s leave this nonsense to the Twitterverse.

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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