- Herman Cain prepares for Tuesday night’s GOP presidential candidate debate sponsored by Bloomberg and The Washington Post. Illustrates DEBATE (category a), by Philip Rucker and Amy Gardner (c) 2011, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. (MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg News photo by Lori Hoffman.)
- Supporters of candidates and issues gathered in the Free Speech area set up on the green outside the Republican Presidential Debate held at Dartmouth in Hanover, NH on Tuesday, October 11, 2011.
Andrea Morales/Monitor Staff
- Michele Bachmann, Republican representative from Minnesota, left, speaks while Rick Perry, governor of Texas, listens during a presidential debate featuring eight GOP candidates and focusing on the economy. Illustrates DEBATE (category a), by Philip Rucker and Amy Gardner (c) 2011, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. (MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg News photo by Andrew Harrer.)
- Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, speaks during a presidential debate sponsored by Bloomberg and The Washington Post held at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. Illustrates DEBATE (category a), by Philip Rucker and Amy Gardner (c) 2011, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. (MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg News photo by Scott Eells.)
- Preparations are made on stage at the table that will be used for a Republican presidential debate sponsored by Bloomberg and The Washington Post at Dartmouth. Illustrates DEBATE (category a), by Philip Rucker and Amy Gardner (c) 2011, The Washington Post. Moved Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. (MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg News photo by Lori Hoffman.)
Romney, Cain draws most flak at GOP debate
HANOVER – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney became a favorite target of his rivals but the surging Georgia businessman Herman Cain was in the cross hairs too during a two-hour televised debate at Dartmouth College on Tuesday night.
Romney had to defend against Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s assault for having signed a health care mandate law as governor of Massachusetts and his past stewardship of Bain Capital that helped leverage corporate buyouts that closed some businesses.
Ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich said Romney’s jobs plan would do little to spur investment because it would only cut capital gains for those making less than $200,000.
But Romney faced similar criticisms in his unsuccessful run for the White House in 2008.
Cain was in new, deeper waters as the first-time candidate and ex-CEO of Godfather Pizza.
Cain’s ‘’9-9-9’’ plan for national income, sales and capital gain taxes at the same rate came under withering attacks from opponents clearly envious that this candidate within the past month has gone from low single digits to second behind Romney in New Hampshire and some national polls.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann all said Cain’s plan would create a new sales tax engine the Congress would crank well above 9 percent.
Texas congressman Ron Paul said Cain’s past as a regional director of a Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City promotes what he called reckless monetary policy that made this recession the worst since the Great Depression.
Bloomberg News, the Washington Post and WBIN-TV sponsored this seventh debate, which was the first since the 2012 field became set and the first since Cain’s rise was equaled by Perry’s plummet back to single digits in the polls.
Early in the debate, Cain went on the defensive about his spending plan to stimulate jobs and said it must be followed by a commitment to opposing higher federal spending.
“It starts with throwing out the current tax code and putting in my 9-9-9 plan, and the second is getting serious about our national debt,” Cain said.
Huntsman mocked Cain’s plan and said he’d promote a “flatter” income tax and a cut in the capital gains tax to 25 percent and mocked Cain’s 9-9-9 plan.
“I think it’s a catchy phrase; in fact, I thought it was the price of a pizza when I first heard it,” Huntsman said. “Here’s what we need. We want something that is doable, doable, doable.”
Cain shot back that Santorum and Huntsman’s plans are too incremental.
“9-9-9 will pass. It is not the price of the pizza. It starts with – not like your proposals – throwing out the tax code,” Cain responded. “Continuing tinkering with the current tax code is not going to stimulate this economy.”
Santorum’s plan calls for eliminating the tax on capital gains for manufacturing. He said this would help bring back the $1.3 trillion that U.S. companies have invested overseas. This would make the U.S. more competitive, and unlike other plans such as Cain’s, it will win bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, Santorum claimed.
“It is not just proposing a plan that the Washington Post will smile about; it’s a plan that will pass and bring people together,” he said.
Bachmann, a professional tax lawyer prior to serving in Congress, also made light of Cain’s plan.
“I would have to say that the 9-9-9 plan isn’t a jobs plan; it is a tax plan,” Bachmann said. “The last thing you would do is give Congress another pipeline of a revenue stream and that is a sales tax. A sales tax could lead to a value-added tax.
“If you take the 9-9-9 plan and turn it upside down; the devil is in the details,” Bachmann quipped.
At one point in the night, Perry quoted one of Romney’s own economic advisers who had described Romney’s Massachusetts health care law as analogous to Obama’s universal health care law.
Romney said the law was focused on the 8 percent of people who lacked insurance in that state while the Obama solution upset the entire health care market.
Romney then tried to turn the tables on Perry.
“We have the lowest number of kids without insurance in America; you have the highest,” Romney said. “We have 1 percent of kids without insurance; you have 1 million kids without insurance in Texas.”
Huntsman accused Romney, as head of Bain Capital, of presiding over leveraged buyouts that caused job losses and hurt working class Americans.
Massachusetts had the 47th lowest job growth while Romney was governor while Utah at least one year led the nation, Huntsman said.
“How can you win that debate given your background?” Huntsman asked.
Romney said Bain Capital helped broker major job creators. “We started Staples; we started the Sports Authority. Heck, we even started a steel mill in a farm field in Indiana and that steel mill still functions,” Romney said. “… We created tens of thousands of jobs.”
Perry also defended not having put together an economic plan in contrast to the GOP front-runner, Romney, who has a 59-part proposal.
Perry said his plan will come out in the next three days and focus directly on reducing American dependence on foreign oil.
“Mitt has had six years to work on a plan; I’ve had six weeks,” Perry said.
Spending in Washington, especially in connection with the bailouts, also came under fire.
Romney defended his past support for the 2008 bailout of major banks under President George W. Bush and then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, but quarreled with some of the institutions chosen to be protected such as the major automakers.
“The action that President Bush and Secretary Paulson took … was to keep the entire currency worth something,” Romney said. “We were on the precipice and could have had an entire meltdown.”
Big financial institutions that make bad decisions should be allowed to fail, he said but added he would support federal policies that strengthen U.S. markets.
“You don’t want to bail out anybody; that’s a terrible idea and it shouldn’t happen,” Romney said. “We do want to make sure we don’t lose our country and we don’t lose our financial system.”
Gingrich called for the Fed to release every decision document from 2008-10 leading to the Wall Street bailout that contributed to the national recession.
“We are not any better prepared today for a crisis of that scale because the people who were there and who were wrong are still in charge,” he said.
Gingrich also said the fault of the economy lies not with Wall Street but with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Obama Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner.
“If they want to change things, the first person is Bernanke who has been a disaster for the economy; the second one to fire is Geitner,” Gingrich said.
Paul, a strong opponent of the Federal Reserve, accused Cain, a former Kansas City regional Fed director, of being soft on routine audits of the Fed.
“You said you advised those of us who were concerned; we were belittled,” Paul said to Cain.
“Do you stick by this, that this is frivolous?” Paul asked.
Cain denied he mocked those who wanted to audit the Fed and said during the 1990s when he was a regional director, the Fed didn’t allow the federal debt to run up to record levels.
“I do not object to the Federal Reserve being audited; I simply said if somebody wants to initiate that action, go ahead, it doesn’t bother me,” Cain said.
Bachmann said younger Americans are going to face “75 percent tax rates” on income if the Congress and the president don’t rein in spending.
“Every year we are spending about 40 percent more than what we take in. Our answer has to be that we cut back on the spending so we can get into balance,” Bachmann said.
She also turned on Perry trying to sully his record as a fiscal conservative while Texas governor.
“As governor, you went on to increase spending in Texas by 50 percent, and you financed that spending by increasing bonded debt by 137 percent,” Bachmann said. “How can we trust you not to go the Obama way and pay for that spending with bonded debt?”
Perry claimed Texas’ debt position improved during his more than a decade in office.
“Texas had the sixth-lowest debt per capita when I started in 2000, and today, Texas has the second lowest debt per capita,” Perry answered. “I think that’s what America is looking for.”
The format of the debate called for the candidates to ask one rival a question. The debate aired locally on businessman Bill Binnie’s new TV station WBIN. However, the station experienced technical difficulties around 9:15 p.m., leaving local viewers in the dark for the last 15 minutes of the event.
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