Leaving Las Vegas

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )

Rick Perry rolled the dice at this week’s debate in Las Vegas, but didn’t quite hit the jackpot. Luck has been on Herman Cain’s side all month, but now he’s got to prove he also has the skill to be a contender. Mitt Romney played it safe, but he still seems to be taking home the biggest winnings.

As most of the leading presidential candidates wrapped up their trips out West on Wednesday, they each left with their work cut out for them.

Perry made his presence felt on the debate stage on Tuesday night, and his campaign is out with a new web video this morning sharpening two lines of attack he used that night: resurfacing old allegations that Romney once hired illegal immigrant gardeners and reminding voters of the health care plan Romney passed in Massachusetts.

But now the Texas governor needs to prove he’s more than just a flame-thrower — and he knows it. At a speech in Nevada yesterday, Perry previewed an economic growth plan he will unveil next week in South Carolina. It will include a flat tax, spending cuts, a balanced budget amendment, and a call for entitlement reform.

“In six days, I’m going to release the details of an economic growth package that will create jobs, create growth, create investor confidence in America again” Perry said at the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas yesterday.  “Scrapping the three million words of the current tax code, starting over with something simpler — a flat tax. I want to make the tax code so simple that even Timothy Geithner can file his taxes on time.”

Cain is also putting some meat on the bones. He’s continuing to tout his 9-9-9 plan every chance he gets, but on Friday he also plans to launch an economic Opportunity Zone Plan during a speech in Michigan.

Romney, who continues to be the target of criticism, isn’t taking the swipes lying down. His campaign launched a new website yesterday, Careerpolitician.com, dedicated to attacking Perry.

And, of all the candidates, Romney is still the one who is getting the most attention from Democrats.

On a conference call yesterday that focused almost exclusively on Romney, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina told reporters that during Tuesday’s debate Romney proved “that he will say or stand for anything to get elected, even if it means forgetting the positions he’s previously taken,” During the 13-minute call, Romney was mentioned by name 16 times, while Perry and businessman Herman Cain were only each mentioned briefly and in response to reporters’ questions, ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that after this week’s rumble in Las Vegas, we are in a new stage of the 2012 primary race.


Mitt Romney Under Attack From All Sides: ABC’s Jonathan Karl takes a closer look at how the former Massachusetts governor is taking heat both from the president and his GOP opponents: http://abcn.ws/oKY1dv


NOTABLE & QUOTABLE. Speaking at a Republican Women of Las Vegas event yesterday, Texas First Lady Anita Perry noted the depth of her family’s support for her husband’s presidential bid. “When Rick decided to do this, we had no idea it would go down this path in our live, but I want to tell you that I’m all in with his candidacy,” Mrs. Perry said. “Our children are all in.  Our four dogs are all in.  Because you know sometimes when nobody else loves you, your dogs do.


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Z. Byron Wolf interview Sen. Jeff Sessions. Also on the program, Joanna Brooks, a religion analyst, who will weigh in on how faith has recently emerged as an issue on the campaign trail. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc  


IS HERMAN CAIN PRO-CHOICE? “Rarely do social issues come up, specifically the conservative hot topic of abortion,” with presidential candidate Herman Cain, writes ABC’s Susan Archer. When Cain has addressed the issue, he says he believes that life begins with conception. And he doesn’t believe that abortion should be allowed — ever — even in cases of rape or incest. His seemingly pro-life stance usually garners some applause from his audience. Cain reiterated his pro-life stance during his interview with Piers Morgan on CNN; but the takeaway was surprisingly revealing in that the one-time associate Baptist minister revealed that it was the right of the individual to make personal decisions. ‘I believe that life begins at conception and abortion, under no circumstances,’ Cain told Morgan. Pressed on if he would apply this same directive to his grandchildren, Cain candidly responded. ‘It comes down to, it’s not the government’s role or anybody’s role to make that decision. Secondly, if you look at the statistical incidents, you’re not talking about that number. What I’m saying is it ultimately gets down to a choice that the family or that mother has to make. Not me as president, not some politician, not a bureaucrat. It gets down to that family. And whatever they decide. I shouldn’t have to tell them what decision to make for such a sensitive issue.’ So while Cain indicated a personal objection to abortion, he alluded to an individual’s right to choose. ‘I can have an issue on a opinion without it being a directive on the nation. The nation shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decision that they need to make.’” http://abcn.ws/qPxgGv

WHAT HOUSING CRISIS? “When the mortgage crisis erupted in 2007, the housing industry dominated the political agenda. Seven years later, the economy remains on the forefront of Americans’ minds but contenders for the 2012 elections have little to say about the housing industry, the future of which remains bleak,” notes ABC’s Huma Khan. “Mitt Romney incited the ire of liberals and President Obama when he suggested Tuesday that banks shouldn’t stop the foreclosure process and instead let them “hit the bottom.” “The idea of the federal government running around and saying, hey, we’re going to give you some money for trading in your old car, or we’re going to give you a few thousand bucks for buying a new house, or we’re going to keep banks from foreclosing if you can’t make your payments, these kind of actions on the part of government haven’t worked,” the leading Republican 2012 contender said at Tuesday night’s debate in Nevada, which has the highest foreclosure rate in the country. But other GOP candidates have been relatively mum on the issue, even as the housing industry remains weak. “No one has very good ideas of what to do about this situation that we’re in right now,” said Peter J. Wallison, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who served as counsel to President Ronald Reagan. “It’s a much more complex issue than talking about the debt or defense policy or foreign policy. This is a very complicated financial problem and to try and explain it in a soundbite is very hard to do.” http://abcn.ws/pCzK2e

BIDEN’S WORDS DRAW FIRE. “Vice President Joe Biden doubled down Wednesday on his charge that rape and murder will rise if Congress fails to pass the American Jobs Act,” writes the Huffington Post’s Michael McAuliff. “Minutes after addressing a firefighters rally in a Senate office building to push for passage of (at least) a $35 billion provision that would pay for the hiring of hundreds of thousands of police officers, teachers and firefighters, Biden was challenged by a reporter over his crime claims. Biden insisted, ‘Murder will continue to rise. Rape will continue to rise. All crime will continue to rise.’” http://huff.to/nCe6LE

The Republican National Committee is circulating a memo penned by RNC Vice Chair Sharon Day calling on the press and women’s groups to hold the vice president accountable: Vice President Biden decided to express his support for President Obama’s Stimulus 2.0 plan by explaining to a crowd that he wished opponents ‘knew what it felt like to be robbed or raped.’ Nothing could be more irresponsible and mean spirited. No victim of violent crime would ever wish that others were forced to experience the same trauma they went though — especially to make a brazen political point. So why would the sitting Vice President of the United States? … To link well-justified, bipartisan opposition to the President’s latest stimulus proposal to violent crime is intellectually dishonest and reeks of the kind of gutter politics that the Obama Administration purports to be above.”

RICK PERRY’S TEXAS-FLAVORED BET. “With the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals set to face off Wednesday night in the first game of the World Series, Texas Governor Rick Perry placed a friendly wager on the baseball championship with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon,” ABC’s Arlette Saenz notes. “Perry wagered barbeque from the Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas and Dr. Pepper while Nixon bet an order of St. Louis toasted ravioli, gourmet prosciutto salami and other meats, frozen custard and a six-pack of Budweiser. ‘With all due respect to the Cardinals and their legendary fan base, it’s really their bad luck that they’re running up against the Texas Rangers, a team of destiny poised to win the  World Series,’ Perry said in a statement.  ‘The Cardinals have had a great run, but this is about the here and now, and as Gov. Nixon and his fellow Missourians are about to discover, you simply can’t mess with Texas.’” http://abcn.ws/oE8N2T

WHITE HOUSE WATCH: From ABC’s Mary Bruce: Back from his three-day American Jobs Act bus trip, President Obama will spend today at the White House. This afternoon, Obama will welcome the 13 recipients of the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor, to the White House.  Later, the president will hold a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway in the Oval Office.


@ TheFix : Is the flat tax Rick Perry’s political silver bullet? It just might be. ow.ly/73idB

@ HotlineReid : On The Trail: How candidates are losing control of their own campaigns, thanks to super PACs:  bit.ly/qmZuKJ

@ gregorywallace : Buddy Roemer, who campaigns on an anti-corruption platform, files in  #fitn primary. report and photo slideshow-  bit.ly/n9uali

@ TomBevanRCP : RCP’s Scott Conroy: With Debate Hiatus, GOP Candidates Will Hit the Trail Hard  bit.ly/nZ3Cd7

@ anitakumar01 : Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, Rick Perry ask Va Gov. @bobmcdonnell for his endorsement  wapo.st/qFaKjP


Mitt Romney holds a Town Hall Meeting at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa at 8:30 a.m. At 12:05 p.m., Romney holds an economic round table in Treynor. At 4 p.m., he attends a meet and greet with the Council Bluffs Chamber Of Commerce.

* Rick Santorum stops at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, N.H. at 10:40 a.m. Next he goes to Concord to file his paperwork to officially be on the ballot in the New Hampshire Presidential Primary at 1 p.m. At 4 p.m., Santorum will host a meet-and-greet at BeanTowne Coffee House & Café in Hampstead. Then at 7 p.m., he takes part in a “We the People” Town Hall Meeting hosted Jennifer Horn in Manchester.

* Newt Gingrich hosts a Town Hall Meeting in Dallas, Texas at 1:30 p.m.

* Michele Bachmann speaks to the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco at noon.

The Note Futures Calendar:  http://abcn.ws/ZI9gV


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* For breaking political news and analysis check out The Note blog:  http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/ and ABCNews.com/Politics:  http://abcnews.com/politics

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