Round 8 of GOP debates: Candidates look to land punch on Herman Cain
Tuesday's GOP debate in Las Vegas is likely to see candidates try to knock down Herman Cain, who has surged in the polls. For each presidential contender, here's what to watch for.
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All seven Republican presidential candidates on the debate stage -– and even former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who’s boycotting – face high stakes. Thus far, the GOP debates have proved crucial in shaping the nomination race, and this eighth round should be no different.
Can Herman Cain take the heat? The affable former pizza magnate is surging in polls and is now tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the lead among Republican voters. Mr. Cain’s "9-9-9" tax plan has won notice for its bold simplicity, but questions are growing about its potential impact. Antitax activist Grover Norquist calls it “very dangerous,” because it establishes a new revenue stream into federal coffers – a national sales tax. Cain himself acknowledges that some Americans would face a higher tax burden.
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Expect the candidates not named Cain to train their sights on the man with the plan. Cain could also take flak in other areas. On “Meet the Press” Sunday, when asked if he would describe himself as a “neoconservative” in foreign policy, he didn’t know what that meant. On immigration, he has gone back and forth on whether he seriously wants to put an electrified fence on the US-Mexico border.
Will Cain’s foes be able to rattle the smooth-talking (and singing) businessman? Or will the debate format, which favors sound bites over depth, give him an escape hatch?
Can Mr. Romney burst through his ceiling? Romney has performed smoothly and competently in every debate, and yet his poll numbers remain stuck in the mid-20s. Short of a personality transplant, it’s hard to see how the former governor can suddenly wow Republicans. But maybe voters aren’t looking for wow. Ultimately, the GOP electorate is looking for the person who seems most capable of turning the economy around – and who can defeat President Obama.
Cain has limited funds and even more limited organization, so analysts don’t expect him to last. Thus, it may be that Romney simply has to wait out the Cain surge, then take out the governor who entered the race as the likely anti-Romney – Rick Perry of Texas. The question is how aggressively Romney will go after both men on Tuesday night.
On the eve of the debate, Romney signaled that he still views Governor Perry as serious competition. He launched an anti-Perry website, CareerPolitican.com, and posted a video that goes after Perry’s record. Unemployment in Texas has doubled under Perry’s watch, and nearly half of the new jobs in the state over the past four years went to illegal immigrants, the video asserts.