Is 9-9-9 enough to keep Herman Cain a GOP front-runner?
Herman Cain is enjoying a surge in popularity in New Hampshire. But will his 9-9-9 tax plan withstand the scrutiny that top-tier candidates must face?
Herman Cain is enjoying a surge in popularity in New Hampshire. He finished second to Mitt Romney in a recent poll here and rode a wave of momentum into Tuesday’s debate at Dartmouth College, where he proved to be the primary challenger to the front-runner.Skip to next paragraph
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The question now is whether he can sustain his top-tier status under the scrutiny of voters who like to meet candidates up close and dig for details behind catch phrases such as “9-9-9” – Cain’s oft-repeated slogan for his plan to radically alter the federal tax structure.
“He’s the latest candidate around whom people who are dissatisfied with the idea of Mitt Romney as the eventual nominee are coalescing,” says Christopher Galdieri, who teaches a class on the New Hampshire primary at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire.
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But candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and even Donald Trump have enjoyed such moments in the sun, he notes. It’s not clear yet, Mr. Galdieri says, whether there’s “genuine strong support for Herman Cain himself or whether it’s more conservative Republicans just checking him out ... as a potential nominee.”
Cain garnered 20 percent support among likely voters in the New Hampshire Republican party in a poll released Monday by political institutes at St. Anselm and Harvard University. That’s still significantly behind former Massachusetts Governor Romney’s 38 percent. Congressman Ron Paul of Texas took third place with 13 percent.
But few voters are firm on their preferences at this point. Among Romney supporters in the poll, just 10 percent said they’d definitely vote for him; for Cain it was just 6 percent.
New Hampshire – traditionally the first state in the nation to hold a primary vote – is famous for its anything-can-happen-here reputation. Independents, about 40 percent of the voters in New Hampshire, can opt to vote in either party’s primary, and experts say it’s hard to gauge how many of them will vote until the election looms much closer. The date of this year’s primary vote is still to be decided, but could come as early as December.
Cain, former head of the Godfather’s Pizza chain, managed to grab the spotlight during much of Tuesday night’s debate, and “he’s very engaging in that format,” says Linda Fowler, a Dartmouth professor of government who has long followed New Hampshire primaries.
But his appealing shoot-from-the hip style, a quality which served John McCain well in the 2008 Republican primary, may not be enough to sway voters this time around, Professor Fowler says. Voters in New Hampshire, as in the rest of the country, are deeply concerned about the economy, and they’ll be looking at the details of his plan to institute a 9 percent income tax, 9 percent business tax, and 9 percent sales tax.