Can Herman Cain Keep Up? (The Note)

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

HANOVER, N.H. — Oh, Herman, we hardly know you.

That’s about to change starting with tonight’s presidential debate in New Hampshire where the bright light of scrutiny will be focused on a surging Herman Cain. Within the last day the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO has moved into a close second place behind Mitt Romney in two more national polls.

Don’t expect his rivals to let his new place in the GOP presidential field go unrecognized. That likely includes tonight’s other man-of-the hour, Rick Perry, whose debate performance will be closely watched after previous stumbles.

“We don’t have a Herman Cain problem,” a source close to the Romney campaign told ABC’s John Berman. “Rick Perry has a Herman Cain problem.”

And it’s not only Perry. Not long ago, it was Michele Bachmann who was campaign 2012's shooting star. Now she’s fallen to the middle of the pack.

“If the opportunity comes up to show a contrast with Herman Cain she will,” Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for Michele Bachmann, said about her candidate’s strategy in tonight’s debate. “At some point or other all of the candidates will go through the vetting the process.”

Bachmann, whose campaign is rolling out a new blueprint for economic recovery and job growth today, is likely to offer an alternative to Cain’s 9-9-9 plan, which would lower the current 35 percent corporate tax rate to 9 percent, swap the personal income tax system for a 9 percent flat tax and create a 9 percent national sales tax.

“The numbers haven’t added up,” Stewart said. “The numbers don’t lie.”

And then there’s Rick Santorum, always a feisty debater, who is trying to find a way to break out of the lower-tier of GOP contenders. Recently, Santorum has been offering his own twist on Cain’s proposal — the 0-0-0 plan (zero income tax on manufacturing companies, zero taxes on repatriated corporate profits that are invested in manufacturing equipment and zero Obama-era regulations.)

“Senator Santorum saw the problems with Herman Cain’s plan coming from a mile a way,” Santorum strategist Hogan Gidley told ABC News. “Suggesting that a 9 percent tax should be added to the books, and being naïve enough to think that it will stay at 9 percent is just not conservative. It shows a lack of knowledge of how government works.”

Of course there’s another guy on the stage who can tell you how it feels like to come into a debate as the newest, hottest commodity only to leave the stage that night as the bruised and battered also-ran, and that’s Perry.

So far, Cain has been a more polished debater than the Texas Governor. But, we have never seen how he reacts when challenged. And will the national media start to pile on as well? Will they start to dig through Cain’s personal and political story the way they have for the other candidates who have tasted the rarified air of the top tier?

In theory, the best news for Cain is that tonight’s debate, which is sponsored by Bloomberg and the Washington Post and starts at 8 p.m. Eastern, is focused on the economy and not, as Cain so colorfully put it in a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody — foreign policy.

“When they ask me who’s the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I’m going to say you know, I don’t know,” Cain said. “Do you know? And then I’m going to say, ‘how’s that going to create one job?’”

ABC’s John Berman reports on the Pizza mogul’s rise and what it says about the GOP:


EXCLUSIVE: RICK PERRY’S SON SAYS DAD IS ‘WELL RESTED’ FOR DEBATE. While his father hunkered down in preparation for Tuesday night’s debate, Griffin Perry vouched for Rick Perry’s debate capabilities, saying his father will be “well rested” and better prepared for the Republican Debate at Dartmouth College, ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports. “I think he’s going to do very well in the debate tomorrow,” Griffin Perry told ABC News Monday evening before the Grafton County GOP Columbus Day Dinner in Plymouth, New Hampshire.  “He’s not here this evening because he’s resting up, you know. He was very focused on raising money and did a very good job at that.  Now the focus will be the debates and when he gets focused he can do anything.” Griffin will be on the trail in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida in the coming months and has already spoken at fundraisers on behalf of his father’s campaign. “He’s a really good guy,” the younger Perry told ABC. ”I’m his 28 year old son who decided to put everything aside to go try to help him become the president of the United States, and I did that because I think he’s got the vision.  He’s not afraid to talk about issues that will face my generation and generations to come.”

@ GovernorPerry : Great running weather in W Lebanon, NH. Leaves are glorious as we prepare for the debate.


ROMNEY’S  SUBTLE SWIPE AT CAIN? Romney typically plays nice with Cain. But at a town hall here on the eve of Tuesday’s presidential debate, Romney drew a contrast between his resume, which includes four years as governor of Massachusetts, and Cain’s, which does not include elected office. After talking about his experience going from Bain Capital to the governor’s mansion, Romney suggested that Cain was, perhaps, not quite as ready as he is for the Oval Office. “I was able to find ways to use my skills in a public sector setting, probably something — if I were Herman — I’d say I wish I had that too because you don’t want to necessarily learn that for the first time as the president of the United States,” Romney said. But, in his remarks on Monday night Romney also found reason to praise the businessman, who he called “a terrific guy.” “Give him a good look,” Romney told his New Hampshire audience. “I’m not going to try to convince you that my private sector experience is better. Both Herman Cain and I spent our lives in private sector, and that’s probably why were doing so well.”


DEBATE NIGHT IN DARTMOUTH: HOW TO WATCH. Friend of the Note, Bloomberg’s Jessica Turtletaub sends in this helpful primer about how to watch tonight’s Bloomberg-Washington Post debate on the economy, which will air on Bloomberg Television starting at 8 p.m. Eastern. To find Bloomberg Television in your area, visit The debate will also be broadcast on Bloomberg Radio and WBIN-TV in New Hampshire. It will be livestreaming on, and Bloomberg Mobile. It will also be broadcast live on Iowa Public Television. The moderators are Charlie Rose, Washington Post political correspondent Karen Tumulty and Bloomberg TV White House correspondent Julianna Goldman. Candidates will be seated side-by-side at a round table facing the hosts and surrounded by audience members. Tonight’s Twitter hashtag: #EconDebate

More on pre- and post-debate activities from Dartmouth University:


DEMOCRATIC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie-Wasserman Schultz will be in Boston to pre-but the Republican candidates with press conference this morning, and then Dartmouth at 5: 30 p.m. Eastern for a pen-and-pad with reporters covering tonight’s debate. According to DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse, “She’ll have a simple message — if you like what you got during last decade when Republicans were in charge — you’ll love what these folks are proposing: Let Wall Street write its own rules again, put consumers at the mercy of financial institutions again and their risky bets and fine print and give greater and greater tax breaks to the wealthy and big oil while telling the middle class to fend for itself. She’ll also emphasize how congressional Republicans and the GOP candidates are opposing the Americans Jobs Act, which Mark Zandi has said will give an immediate boost to the economy and create nearly 2 million jobs.”


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter interview former George W. Bush communications director, Nicole Wallace, the author of a new political novel, “It’s Classified.” Also on the program, race car driver Danica Patrick. She is on Capitol Hill today to talk about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Patrick’s grandmother died from the disease and she is part of a new awareness campaign. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  


DAVID PLOUFFE ON OCCUPY WALL STREET. “The protests you’re seeing are the same conversations people are having in living rooms and kitchens all across America,”  Plouffe said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on ” Good Morning America” today. “People are very frustrated by an economy that does not reward hard work and responsibility, where Wall Street and Main Street don’t seem to play by the same set of rules. The question is, on Wall Street reform, which the president passed, for instance most of the Republicans in Congress and I believe all the Republicans on the stage tonight in New Hampshire, they want to unwind Wall Street reform.”



GEORGE W. BUSH on Iraq, Afghanistan: Drones Alone Would Not Have Defeated Taliban, ‘We Needed Boots on the Ground’ If former President George W. Bush had it to do all over again, he would still send troops into Iraq and Afghanistan. “If I thought it was a better strategy, I would have used it in the first place. I didn’t think so,” Bush told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff in an exclusive interview Sunday. “I don’t think you could have removed the Taliban from power by using only drones. We needed boots on the ground.” “One of the interesting things about history,” he continued, “It’s hard to remember what things were like ten years ago.” To the 30 percent of service members who, in a recent Pew Research Center poll, said that the wars weren’t worth fighting, Bush had this to say: “I hope history proves them wrong.”



AXELROD ON JOBS BILL: ‘THE MORE PEOPLE KNOW…THE MORE THEY WANT CONGRESS TO PASS’ IT. “As President Obama’s jobs bill heads toward its first test vote in the Senate, senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod says that members of Congress who oppose the measure willingly defy a majority of American voters,” ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports. “‘Since introducing the American Jobs Act, the American people have rallied around President Obama’s call for Congress to pass this plan,’ Axelrod wrote in a memo distributed by the campaign Monday night. ‘The more people know about the American Jobs Act; the more they hear the President talking about it; the more they want Congress to pass the plan.’ Axelrod cites recent polling data to argue that support for the bill has gained momentum over the past month, ratcheting up pressure on members — including Democrats — some of whom seem prepared to vote ‘no.’ The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, for example, found that 52 percent of Americans support the bill with 36 percent opposed.”

ON THE HILL: THE COMING REJECTION. ABC’s Sunlen Miller previews: “This evening the Senate will hold a cloture vote on the Democrats’ revision to the jobs bill with the millionaires tax included. It is expected to fail — but pay attention to how many Democratic defectors there are.” As ABC’s Jonathan Karl notes, it may only be a procedural vote, “but it’s also the only vote that counts. Four or five detectors would mean that a majority of the Democratically-controlled Senate would be rejecting the White House’s top priority. Ouch.”

ROMNEY BADGERED ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE QUESTIONS. “It was all about the social issues at Mitt Romney’s second town hall of the day Monday evening, where he was asked so many times about his view on same-sex marriage that he stopped responding to the questions altogether,” ABC’s Emily Friedman reports from Hopkinton, N.H. “The first question came from a young woman in the audience who asked, ‘Why is it that you feel that marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is lesser than a marriage between a man and a woman?’ ‘I think the ideal setting to raise a child for a society like ours is where there is a man and a woman in the marriage,’ Romney responded. ‘So I think as a society we are wise to encourage marriage between a man and a woman for the purpose of raising our kids.’ A few questions later another young woman followed up on his answer and asked why being raised by two women like she was — her grandmother and her mother raised her — was any different from being raised by a man and a woman. ‘I can say, look there are a lot of folks who get raised by one parent … but in my view a society recognizes that the ideal setting for raising a child is when you have the benefit of two people working together and when one is male and one is female,’ Romney said. ‘That’s why as a society we say we’re going to call marriage what it has been called for 6,000 years or longer — a relationship between one man and one woman.’”

NEW HAMPSHIRE MOMENT: ROMNEY TELLS OFF REPORTER.  A reporter who kept asking Mitt Romney again and again whether he thought Eric Holder should resign saw a side of the presidential candidate in New Hampshire today that we don’t often see. Romney got noticeably irritated at the reporter, turning around from people waiting to shake his hand, to confront the reporter. ”Here’s the story. Hold on. I do media avails. And I answer questions that are important questions in the length that I want to do it. But what I don’t do is in a group like this stop and rattle off questions as we walk along because that way you don’t to hear the full answer I’d like to give,” said Romney. More from ABC’s Friedman:

PERRY’S WIFE ON CAMPAIGN 2012: ‘IT’S ALREADY UGLY’ ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports: In an interview with Parade Magazine, Anita Thigpen Perry, the former nurse turned wife of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, revealed her support for the controversial HPV vaccine mandate issued by Rick Perry in 2007, but voiced frustration with the decision, saying “I wish he had talked to me first.” “I thought he handled it the wrong way,” Perry said in the interview.  “I’m pro-immunization.  I would have supported the vaccine.  I do not sees it as an opening for sexual promiscuity in any way.  I see it as another immunization.”  In a campaign she described as “ugly,” “unkind and unfair,” Perry lauded her husband for saying he made a mistake, and she argued it’s an admission of guilt she doesn’t “know how many other men would admit.” The Perry couples’ relationship dates back to to their childhood in Paint Creek, Texas where they met at an elementary school piano recital and have since developed nicknames for each other — “Ricky” and “Nita,” which Rick Perry has used often on the campaign trail.

METAPHOR ALERT: HUNTSMAN TAKES FIRST PLACE…  In a neck-tie auction, ABC’s Sarah Kunin reports. In a completely unscientific marker of GOP favorability, Jon Huntsman made it to the top of the pack. Huntsman was one of six Republican presidential hopefuls to donate a necktie from their personal wardrobes to raise money for the Grafton County Republican Committee at their dinner in Plymouth, N.H. last night. After a heated bidding war for a Herman Cain tie and personal meeting combo, it seemed like the crowd’s purchasing potential had reached its peak.  But then, Huntsman emerged as the dark horse in the race. Sure, he was the only actual candidate in the room (Mitt Romney sent his wife Ann, while Rick Perry was represented by his son, Griffin), but with wife Mary Kaye, the Huntsmans raised an evening record of $270. It must be noted that Huntsman also promised a hug from “future first lady” Mary Kaye, who, when the bidding plateaued at $210, declared, “Come on! I’m worth more than that!” Huntsman was two for two at Grafton County’s Columbus Day dinner, placing first in the event’s straw poll with 26 votes. Romney came in second with 24 votes followed by Herman Cain with 17.

MONEY WAR IN MASSACHUSETTS. “The money war in the Massachusetts Senate race is officially on and this quarter Elizabeth Warren is the resounding victor. The consumer advocate and Harvard Law School professor raised $3.15 million in just several weeks of campaigning. Ninety-six percent of the donations were $100 or less, according to her campaign, which said they raised the money from 11,000 donors in Massachusetts with the ‘vast majority’ of donations coming in after she formally announced on Sept. 14, the last two weeks of the quarter,” ABC’s Shushannah Walshe reports. “This is more than many of the GOP presidential candidates raised this quarter. But despite her big haul, Warren’s accounts are still dwarfed by Scott Brown’s cash on hand.  The Brown campaign raised $1.55 million this quarter, less than Warren, but has $10.5 million cash on hand. The Brown campaign’s finance director released a statement pointing out they have quite the war chest they can sit on while Warren has to battle her Democratic rivals before she officially takes on Brown.”

SARAH PALIN SEES A WOMAN PRESIDENT. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has told a business forum in Seoul that the United States is due for a female president,” the Associated Press reports from Seoul, South Korea. “Palin said Tuesday at the World Knowledge Forum that there ‘will be a woman president of the United States of America, and I look forward to that day.’ But she offered no clues about her political future and didn’t discuss why she bowed out of a bid next year. Palin also said she looks forward to a “regime change” in North Korea and the day South Korea can help rebuild the North after the fall of Pyongyang’s current ruling dynasty.  North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is grooming his twenty-something son to take power.”



@ DavidMDrucker : @TheHermanCain trusts campaign team w/ limited prez experience 2 lead him 2 victory at the polls:

@ TomBevanRCP : Mike Isikoff uncovers the Romneycare=Obamacare smoking gun?

@ pwire : Romney leads in Iowa and New Hampshire, Perry sinks to 4th place in both…

@ jennagiesta : Iowa is generally a turnout/strength of support battle, so if Cain really has little/no org in IA, is a bump in the polls there enough?

@ HotlineJosh : BREAKING: Ex-GOP Gov. Linda Lingle running for the Senate in Hawaii, very tough race but big recruiting win for NRSC…


WHITE HOUSE WATCH. From ABC’s Mary Bruce: President Obama will spend today pitching his $447 billion jobs bill and hearing recommendations from his jobs council on how to spur the economy and create jobs. At a meeting this afternoon in Pittsburgh, the president’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council will present five “targeted proposals that can meaningfully accelerate job creation while beginning to rebuild America’s competitiveness.” Later, Obama will shift his focus to fundraising, attending two campaign events in Orlando, Fla., this evening before returning back to Washington.


* Jon Huntsman holds a town hall meeting in Hanover, N.H. at 1 p.m.

* Eight Republican presidential candidates will participate in a debate at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., sponsored by Bloomberg and the Washington Post starting at 8 p.m.

* Gary Johnson leaves for a bike ride from from the Millyard Museum in Manchester, N.H., and rides to Mary Anne’s Diner in Derry. From there he travels to Salem, Windham and Nashua and then onto a celebration at the Milford Downtown Oval.

* Rick Perry attends a debate watch party at the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity House at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. after the debate.

TOMORROW IN THE GRANITE STATE. “At least five Republican presidential hopefuls will speak before lawmakers at the state house on Wednesday,” reports Primary Insider blogger Gregory Wallace. “Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain of Georgia, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania have accepted an invitation extended to all major candidates, according to the report. Mitt Romney and incumbent President Barack Obama have not yet replied, while Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul have declined.”

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