GOP Economic Debate Centers Around Cain and Romney

COMMENTARY | As GOP hopefuls met for a debate structured around the economy and jobs, the field of eight candidates seated around the table was quickly transformed into the Herman Cain and Mitt Romney show. While offering solid ideas, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, and Newt Gingrich seemed content to play bit roles in the process, as Ron Paul continued to beat his “Audit the Fed” drum and offered little else to the discussion. Most surprisingly, Rick Perry seemed to show up to the debate without his homework, promising to offer his plans in the next “three or four days.”

Herman Cain and 9-9-9

Clearly stealing the show, Herman Cain and his 9-9-9 tax plan was the focus of much attention. Staunchly defending his position, Cain found himself accused by the field of being politically naive. Centering on his proposed 9 percent national sales tax, the field united against the creation of yet another avenue of taxation being made available to the federal government. In his defense, Cain scored strongly with the voters, pointing out that his was the only plan to completely repeal the existing and overly complex tax code.

As the night progressed however, Cain was left looking like a one-trick pony, deferring virtually every answer to his 9-9-9 plan. Taking direct hits from Santorum, Bachmann, Paul, and Huntsman on the limitations of his plan, Cain’s entire candidacy seemed centered around the assumptions that not only was his plan the right one, but that it would also be able to obtain passage through the bipartisan Congress. In the great divide of today’s political climate, the assumption of passage seems naive indeed.

Mitt Romney Gains Momentum

In contrast to Cain’s simplistic view and plan for the future, Mitt Romney’s multi-point plan received some attention of its own. As Cain promoted his own plan as “bold” and simple, his criticism of the Romney plan was its complexity. Romney’s response: “Simple answers are always very helpful, but oftentimes inadequate.”

Choosing to focus on providing long-term stability and predictability for the future of America’s business owners, Romney appeared both confident and competent in his evaluation of how to put the economy back on track. Highlighting the need for bipartisan support and working across party lines, Romney gave an impression of being ready for the task.

Leaving an Impression

After two hours of debate on Bloomberg TV, an advertiser, not a candidate, left the greatest impression of the evening. With strikingly poignant ads, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation made a splash, using children to bring into focus the absolute urgency of putting our nation back on track. Whether the GOP nominee is Cain, Romney, Perry or Paul, the voters are clear: Fix our problems now and stop deferring them to future generations.

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