Tuesday night’s Bloomberg/Washington Post Republican presidential candidate’s debate did little to change the complexion of the GOP primary. It did further distinguish former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain and his ideas as deserving of national attention and campaign momentum. It also showed that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is already running a general election campaign, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, if he does not soon regain his footing, will more rapidly become background noise.
The spotlight was on Cain. Viewers did not have to wait long to see why the businessman is surging in national polls: He is straightforward, quick-witted and specific. Cain is riding his wave of straight-talking, simple and specific business-like reforms of government to prominence.
Cain was peppered with questions about and critiques of his “9-9-9 plan.” He wants to replace the tax code with a 9 percent business flat tax, a 9 percent personal income flat tax and a 9 percent national sales tax.
What the 9-9-9 plan attempts, as Cain explained, is to expand the tax base. “When you expand the base, we can arrive at the lowest possible rate, which is 9-9-9. The difference between the 9-9-9 plan and the other plans that are being proposed is that they pivot off of the existing tax code.”
Romney’s performance solidified an impression of him as the safe, default pick for the nomination, and his remarks made him sound even more like a moderate, an indication that he is already running a general election campaign. He did little to offer innovative solutions interesting to conservative-minded voters. Not only did Romney yet again defend his ill-advised Massachusetts universal health care program, he also defended the government’s Wall Street bailouts — strange positions for a Republican candidate.
Perry’s strategy in this debate appeared to be “less is more,” as the former front-runner asserted himself little. Perry is taking the same tack as Rep. Michele Bachmann did in past debates, and if he does not find his footing, his polling numbers will slide further.
Recent polling shows, as Cain said Tuesday, “Americans want bold solutions.” He is right. And that is what voters like about Cain. Ideas are king, and boldness ought to be the approach of the next Republican presidential nominee. Perhaps that is why Cain is surging, why Perry’s candidacy is waning and why Romney’s campaign seems vulnerable.