It goes without saying that the most talked about moment in tonight's CNBC debate in Michigan came when Texas Gov. Rick Perry had a cringe-worthy meltdown struggling to remember the three government agencies he wanted to eliminate. But there was a telling moment earlier in the evening, when Mitt Romney was asked about his record of taking inconsistent positions, and he responded by citing his long marriage, time at Bain Capital and church membership as evidence of his steadiness. Perry followed Romney, and didn't attempt to attack him as a flip-flopper. That was the trend all evening, as Republican rivals refrained from criticizing each other.
When Romney was prompted to criticize Herman Cain about the swirling sexual harassment charges, he took a pass. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., avoided the opportunity to attack Perry as a crony capitalist. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., wouldn't take a shot at Romney on taxes. Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, turned virtually every question into a criticism of the moderators, or of the media in general.
Overall, this was an un-debate. Candidates answered a number of questions about economic policy, expressing broadly Republican ideas, but they did not challenge one another.