Remaining GOP Candidates in Policy-Heavy Fox News Forum

ROCHESTER, MI - NOVEMBER 09:  (L-R) Former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich, former massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former ceo of godfather's pizza Herman Cain look on prior to a debate hosted by CNBC and the Michigan Republican Party at Oakland University on November 9, 2011 in Rochester, Michigan. The debate is the first meeting of the eight GOP presidential hopefuls since allegations of sexual impropriety have surfaced against front-runner Herman Cain.   (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Newt and Mitt. (Scott Olson/Getty Images) Photo: Scott Olson/2011 Getty Images

Last night, six GOP candidates sat for individual interviews with three conservative attorneys general (from Florida, Virginia, and Oklahoma) in a "presidential forum" on Mike Huckabee's Fox show. One person was noticeably absent: Herman Cain, who suspended his campaign yesterday. But as "one of the more substantive television events in the Republican contest so far," per the Times, the candidates were not allowed to really pitch for Cain's rootless supporters (though Rick Perry did ask to be given a "second look"); instead they were grilled on heavyweight policy questions.

Apart from a stuttering greeting to the panel, Romney seemed back to his poised self after a recent strained appearance on Bret Baier's Fox News show. He easily swatted aside concerns about his Massachusetts healthcare law, saying that while the President is trying to take over 100 percent of the system, "for the 92 percent of people who already had insurance [in Massachusetts], nothing changed." Surely music to an increasingly hardline-on-immigration GOP electorate, Romney claimed he'd vetoed in-state tuition, and fought drivers licenses, for illegal immigrants. As for the Department of Education, he feels its main role is as a counterweight to federal teachers' unions.

Gingrich faced a far less friendly panel, with Virginia's Ken Cuccinelli challenging the current front-runner on the "nonconservative, nonlimited government ideas that you produce," Florida's Pam Bondi accusing him of wanting it "both ways" when it came to education, and renewed attention to his now-infamous Nancy Pelosi climate change video.

Though the other candidates got more or less equal airtime, there were few fireworks to report. Bachmann, who said she would eliminate the EPA and resolve any issues through negotiation, was told by Mr. Cuccinelli that "you cannot just negotiate without a legal foundation and thereby compel both sides to participate." Rick Perry had to back off claims that he would strike down Obamacare with an executive order, a move that sounds like good GOP politics but is, in fact, "untenable" legally, said some on the panel. As for Ron Paul, he stuck to his usual "roll back the Patriot Act" and "kill the Fed" (although gradually, he qualified) positions.