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Rick Perry has the money, but Herman Cain has 9-9-9 momentum

The Herman Cain campaign raised $2.8 million in the last quarter, compared with Rick Perry's $17 million and Mitt Romney's $14 million. But Cain's poll numbers are rising with voter interest in his '9-9-9' tax plan.

By Staff writer / October 15, 2011

Herman Cain - here at a campaign rally on Saturday - is seeing rising poll numbers.

Mark Humphrey/AP

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Businessman Herman Cain may not have raised as much money as his chief rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, but he's been able to advance based on one important edge: a big idea that voters can grab hold of.

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His momentum on the back of the so-called "9-9-9 plan" for tax reform is strong enough that he's putting serious pressure on both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

One poll released this week shows Mr. Cain as the top choice of 27 percent of likely Republican voters, the most of any candidate. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Mr. Romney second at 23 percent and Governor Perry in third at 16 percent.

This comes even though Cain, a political outsider, hasn't built much of a money machine. In a statement released late Friday, his campaign said it has raised more than $2.8 million during the third quarter and has no debt. By comparison, Romney raised $14 million and Perry $17 million during the three months that ended Sept. 30. (The candidates are all filing official quarterly numbers by the end of Saturday.)

But what Cain is missing in campaign cash he's apparently making up for with his big idea.

Where Perry has lacked a compelling pitch in recent debates, and Romney has failed to add much to his solid base of support, Cain's 9-9-9 plan has carried him on an upward surge.

The plan calls for essentially scrapping the current tax code and installing a 9 percent tax on business income, a 9 percent tax on personal income, and a new 9 percent federal sales tax.

What's the appeal?

For starters, some political analysts say the 9-9-9 name reflects brilliant marketing instincts by Cain, whose food-industry career spanned from Coca-Cola to being chief executive of Godfather's Pizza.

The name conveys simplicity, and tax rates that are all in the single-digits -- a contrast with the current code.

Cain has also framed his proposed tax overhaul as a solution for two national problems at once: a shortage of jobs and government run amok. He says the tax reform would help unleash a private-sector jobs recovery, while also streamlining a labyrinthine tax code that for many has become a symbol of government dysfunction and special-interest influence.

Another reason: Whether conservative voters like the details of Cain's plan or not, its boldness has served to energize public debate about radical tax code reforms – including the question of whether the government should rely more on consumption taxes and less on income taxes.

This doesn't mean that Cain has had nothing else going for him during his recent surge.

He says he has gained popular support from his outsider status as (until now) a nonpolitician. He has also drawn on oratorical skills honed as a broadcaster to connect with voters.

But the 9-9-9 plan has played a central role.

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