Whenever the other candidates talked about how the two consumption taxes and the flat income tax would increase taxes on the middle-class and working poor, Cain would just talk about how his analysis was different from that of independent observers and common sense. His defense seems to be that the 9-9-9 plan is so simple and transparent that Cain and Cain’s economic team are the only people on Earth who understand how it impacts anybody, so don’t worry your pretty little head if it looks like a tax increase.
Cain’s blunder? That final “9″ — the one that more than doubles most states’ sales tax. Had Cain nixed the triad and gone with a duet, he might have survived his fellow rightists’ assaults. It goes without saying that the rest of his plan is idiotically unworkable as well, but that never stopped the right-wing horrors of Reaganomics or W.’s balanced-budgets-through-higher-spending-and-revenue-gutting.
The irony [of Perry attacking Romney for hiring illegal immigrants] is that as a lifelong Texan, and a rich one for some time now, the notion that Perry has never so much as done business with anyone who employs illegal immigrants is laughable. Does he ever eat out? Or take taxis? Does he verify the legal status of every house cleaner, gardener, plumber, locksmith and carpenter who sets foot on his property? How will his donors feel about the notion that anyone who has employed an illegal immigrant deserves censure?
This is the first debate Romney unquestionably lost. Perry won to an extent by exceeding expectations and staying in the fight the entire debate, but was it a breakout performance? Doubtful, although it might be enough to get a few of his supporters back in the fold and regain a little momentum.
I’m not intrinsically averse to declaring winners and losers in presidential debates. But there are times when everything is fought more or less to a draw. … it may be best to wait a few days to see which gain traction rather than rush to declare a winner.
Romney is worried about a Perry comeback. I didn’t clock it, but it sure felt as if Romney spent more time with Perry in his sights than Cain. This would suggest that Team Romney considers Cain still the flavor of the nanosecond who will eventually flame out. And if Cain is sucking up the oxygen that would otherwise fuel another anti-Mitt candidate, that’s fine by Romney. In all likelihood, Cain won’t have the money, organization, or staying power to threaten Romney.
Romney necessarily spends most of his debates playing a character type only loosely related to the actual Romney. He had one delicious, authentic moment when Perry assailed him for employing illegal immigrants. Romney claimed that he had fired them, and described his thinking at the time like so: “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals!” I am totally convinced this was what Romney was really thinking. With everything else he says, you’re always peeling away the layers of the onion to figure out what the true Romney thinks. Perry, characteristically, was too dim to notice this, but his handlers will probably train him to quote it at the next debate, by which point Romney will have a slick response that leaves Perry flustered.
Romney was on defense in this debate. A lot. And some blood was drawn. And his hair was mussed. He had it coming from all directions. Gingrich and Santorum attacked on health care. Perry attacked on immigration. But once again, Romney parried fairly effortlessly. He stood his ground and refused to yield. Four years ago, he would have allowed himself to be interrupted. Tonight, he was a battering ram whenever anyone tried to interrupt him. He refused to yield. Which communicates strength. Which is what voters want to see.
Welcome to the start of the Republican primaries proper: a no-holds-barred knockout contest between a former moderate Republican governor running as a born-again conservative and a former Democratic campaign manager running as a right-wing fruit cake. From a spectator’s viewpoint, it’s going to be lots of fun once Herman Cain gets out of the way, which he shows every intention of doing.