Tonight’s debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire introduced a new format in the 2012 political season. Candidates were seated at a roundtable, asked questions by three moderators, and at one point we’re allowed to pose questions to each other. It made for a lively discussion about the nation’s economy and Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan. There were cringe-worthy attacks, snappy defenses, even downright hilarity. Here are a few of the greatest hits:
ZINGER #1 Cain’s 9-9-9? “I thought it was the price of a pizza.”
Asked about Herman Cain’s now infamous 9-9-9 economic plan, Huntsman sliced the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO.
“I think it’s a catchy phrase. In fact, I thought it was the price of a pizza when I first heard about it.”
Debate host Charlie Rose responded, “Price of a pizza?”
“Well, here’s — here’s — here’s what — here’s what we need. We need something that’s do-able, do-able, and do-able. And what I have put forward is a tax program that is doable. It actually wipes clean all of the loopholes and the deductions,” Huntsman said.
ZINGER #2 Cain’s 9-9-9? “The devil is in the details.”
When Congresswoman Bachmann was asked about Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, the former IRS lawyer flipped the numbers.
“I would have to say that the 9-9-9 plan isn’t a jobs plan, it is a tax plan,” she said, adding, “And one thing I would say is, when you take the 9-9-9 plan and you turn it upside down, I think the devil is in the details.”
ZINGER #3 Paul, Cain and the Federal Reserve
Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan wasn’t the only thing that took a beating in the debate. The Federal Reserve suffered some blows as well. Congressman Ron Paul chose to ask Herman Cain a question from among his contenders.
“Mr. Cain, in the past you have been rather critical of any of us who would want to audit the Fed. You have said — you’ve used pretty strong terms, that we were ignorant and that we didn’t know what we are doing, and therefore, there was no need for an audit anyway, because if you had one, you’re not going to find out anything, because everybody knows everything about the Fed,” he said.
“Do you still stick by this, that that this is frivolous, or do you think it’s very important?” Paul asked. “Sixty-four percent of the American people want a full audit of the Fed on a regular basis.”
Cain responded, “First of all, you have misquoted me. I did not call you or any of your people ignorant. I don’t know where that came from.”
“I’ll get it for you,” Paul shot back.
“All right. Now, so you’ve got to be careful of the stuff that you get off the Internet, because that’s just not something that I have said,” Cain replied. “I’ve been misrepresented in that regard. I don’t have a problem with the Federal Reserve being audited. It’s simply not my top priority. My top priority is 9-9-9, jobs, jobs, jobs. ”
ZINGER #4 “The problem with that analysis is that it is incorrect.”
One of the moderators pressed Cain on the numbers in his 9-9-9 Plan, questioning whether it was revenue-neutral and would help boost the economy.
“The problem with that analysis is that it is incorrect,” answered Cain. “The reason it is incorrect is because they start with the assumptions that we don’t make. Remember, the 9-9-9 plan throws out the current tax code. And it starts with three simple economic driving principles: production drives the economy, risk-taking drives growth, and we need sound money, measurements must be dependable.
“Now what 9-9-9 does, it expands the base. When you expand the base, we can arrive at the lowest possible rate which is 9-9-9. The difference between the 9-9-9 plan and the other plans that are being proposed is that they pivot off of the existing tax code,” Cain said. “We have had an outside firm, independent firm dynamically score it. And so our numbers will make it revenue neutral.”
ZINGER #5 Santorum Polls the Crowd, 9-9-9 “Anybody?”
Discussing his jobs plan, Santorum was keen to point out the flaws in Cain’s 9-9-9 plan. Santorum said his plan would make America an attractive place to do business.
“Unlike Herman’s plan, which could not pass, because no — how many people here are for a sales tax in New Hampshire? Raise your hand,” said Santorum polling the crowd.
“There you go, Herman. That’s how many votes you’ll get in New Hampshire,” he responded.
Santorum continued, “How many people believe that we’ll keep the income tax at 9 percent? Anybody?”