Dartmouth Debate Takeaways: What We Learned Last Night (The Note)

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

HANOVER, N.H. — At last night’s Republican presidential debate, no one seemed to sum up the central tension of Herman Cain’s candidacy better than Herman Cain. No one seemed more unflappable than Mitt Romney. And no one seemed more sidelined than Rick Perry.

Let’s start with the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, whose signature “9-9-9? economic plan was front and center on the stage at the Bloomberg-Washington Post debate at Dartmouth College. Cain acknowledged that his proposal was the subject of both serious attacks and half-joking derision. http://abcn.ws/o62HHO

“Because the other candidates could not come up with a compelling proposal to counter 9-9-9, they attacked it, or they tried to make fun of it,” Cain told reporters after the debate. “Yes, the 9-9-9 economic growth and jobs plan drove a lot of the economic growth and discussion tonight.”

Cain managed to defend his proposal, which would impose a flat 9 percent tax rate for corporate and income taxes and a new 9 percent sales tax, but his future in the presidential race may hinge less on 9-9-9 and more on whether he will wither under a microscope of national media attention like Michele Bachmann did.

Last night also made it clear that Perry has to shake up the current pace and focus of this race if he is to regain his once front-runner status. If the GOP primary contest is defined debate by debate he cannot win. Period. Perry plans to roll out a more detailed economic plan in the coming days, but will it be a game changer?

“We’ve always said our biggest impediment and hurdle to doing this successfully is time,” Perry strategist Dave Carney said last night. “The purpose of the campaign is to get better every day. … Some of it is trial and error.”

The big question now: When will Perry start to spend some of his multi-million campaign war chest.

In politics, as in tennis, unforced errors are more often the decider of the game than an ace. What’s remarkable about rise and fall of Bachmann and now Perry is how they really only have themselves to blame

Romney is positioning himself as the inevitable nominee. This is a smart, disciplined and seemingly levelheaded campaign. Romney and Cain are seen by their rivals as the men to beat.

In fact, when the candidates were allowed to ask one of their opponents a question, most picked Romney (Ron Paul picked Cain and Bachmann picked Perry).  http://abcn.ws/pZo1SZ

Still, we remember another candidate who looked unbeatable around this time of the year in 2007.  Just a couple months later she came in third place in Iowa. Now she’s the secretary of state.

And a senior Romney adviser played down the notion of inevitability to ABC’s John Berman.

“We don’t expect this to end soon,” the adviser said. “We are ready to fight until summer.”

And, as ABC’s Jake Tapper reported on “Good Morning America” today, Romney seems stuck at about 25 percent in the polls — so far unable to seal the deal — setting the stage for a more conservative challenger like Cain to pick up even more steam.


HERMAN CAIN talked to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos about his economic plan, his performance in last night’s debate and the road ahead in an interview this morning. Cain, a cancer survivor, also told Stephanopoulos he would release his medical records in order to reassure voters. “I’m willing to release my medical records. Two months ago George, I went to my oncologist in Atlanta, got a full scale check-up, cat scan, x-rays, all of the various blood tests and he put it in writing that after five years I am now totally 100 percent cancer-free,” Herman Cain said. He was diagnosed in 2006 and wrote in his book “This is Herman Cain: My Journey to the White House,” that he was given a 30 percent chance of survival. But Cain overcame stage four colon and liver cancer and said his doctors call him a “cancer miracle.” WATCH: http://abcn.ws/nhB9XQ




DEBATE NIGHT’S BEST ZINGERS. ABC’s Susan Archer picks some of the best “gotcha” moments from last night. Here’s one: Rick Santorum Polls the Crowd on 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?” http://abcn.ws/nxXiND

PERRY: DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY? Texas Governor Rick Perry energetically bounded into the Beta Theta Pi fraternity on Dartmouth College’s campus after Tuesday night’s debate, but when he was asked a question about states’ rights, he slipped up on the dates for when the American Revolution was fought, ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports with an assist from KTRK-Houston’s Ted Oberg. “Our Founding Fathers never meant for Washington, D.C. to be the fount of all wisdom. As a matter of fact they were very much afraid if that because they’d just had this experience with this far-away government that had centralized thought process and planning and what have you, and then it was actually the reason that we fought the revolution in the 16th century was to get away from that kind of onerous crown if you will,” Perry said.” But Perry’s version of American history doesn’t match the history books, which show, of course, that the American Revolution was fought in the 18th century. http://abcn.ws/oilVIQ

GOP CANDIDATES STRETCH THE TRUTH. Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and the other Republican presidential candidates stretched the truth on health care, job creation and the deficit in a debate last night as they attacked each other and President Barack Obama. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said Obama’s health-care law would increase spending by $1 trillion, while Texas Governor Perry said he would make America energy independent. Former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive Herman Cain argued that his “9-9-9? tax plan is revenue neutral. Those are among the statements by the White House contenders that strayed from the truth as the candidates sought to distinguish themselves on jobs and the economy.” Bloomberg and the Washington have a handy fact-check roundup of Romney, Perry, Paul Cain, Gingrich and other candidates here: http://bloom.bg/nQu9AB


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Amy Walter speak to Rep. Brad Miller, D-North Carolina. Also on the program: Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma. Both will weigh in on the failure of President Obama’s jobs bill on Capitol Hill last night. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  http://abcn.ws/toplineliveabc  


IN THE NOTE’S INBOX: ENERGY GROUP AIMS TO EDUCATE. The American Energy Association, in conjunction with the conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, and the Institute for Energy Research, is launching the American Energy Initiative.  According to the groups, the effort will aim to educate Americans about the vast energy resources we have across the country, and the impediments standing in the way of their development. ”When citizens are allowed to explore for and produce the energy resources that they own, and when consumers are allowed to select the most affordable and reliable energy sources, we grow the economy, create opportunities and jobs, harvest more energy, and provide governments with stable, growing sources of revenues. It’s that simple,” AEA President Thomas Pyle said in a statement. The site: www.energyforamerica.org



SENATE REJECTS JOBS BILL. While the Republican candidates were debate, the Senate officially rejected President Obama’s $447 billion jobs bill, ABC’s Sunlen Miller reports: Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., changed his vote from yes to no in order to preserve the motion to proceed. A Senator has to be with the winning side in order to have the ability to bring the measure up again at any time without filing cloture. The bill needed 60 votes to proceed, which will not be reached.  Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., did not vote as he recovers from prostate cancer surgery this week. The final vote was held open hours later than anticipated so that Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., could cast her vote for the bill, after returning from an awards dinner in Boston, around 9 p.m. While Democrats can now claim that they had the majority of senators supporting moving forward with this vote — many of those 51 senators have indicated that they would change their vote, and would not vote for final passage of this bill. At least three senators who voted with the Democrats indicated that unless changes were made to the bill they would vote against final passage, including Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Joe Manchin, D-WVa., and Jim Webb, D-Va.” http://abcn.ws/nHrb5x

HAS THE GOP RACE TURNED INTO THE ‘WIZARD OF OZ’? Politico’s Roger Simon thinks so: “The Republican race has turned into ’The Wizard of Oz.’ Rick Perry wants a brain. Mitt Romney wants a heart. And any number of candidates are Dorothy, realizing there is no place like home and they should have stayed there. Herman Cain is seeking courage. He needs the courage to face the fact he is never going to be the Republican nominee, no matter how well he does in the polls. He needs the courage to settle for something far better than the presidency: His own show on Fox.” http://politi.co/ojfMvp

NEGATIVITY ABOUNDS ABOUT WALL STREET. “Seven in 10 Americans have an unfavorable impression of the financial institutions on Wall Street, a point of resonance with the protesters camped out in Lower Manhattan and elsewhere. But while that sentiment is broadly shared, its intensity rests heavily on political partisanship. Groups such as Democrats and liberals express the most negative views of Wall Street in an ABC News-Washington Post poll,” according to ABC Pollster Gary Langer. “Conservatives and Republicans are less apt to slam the brokers and bankers, and more likely to direct their ire at the federal government. Given this partisan and ideological cast, the results make the Occupy Wall Street movement look like an expression, on the left, of the same kind of frustration voiced by the Tea Party movement, on the right. Overall, this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, finds that 70 percent of Americans see Wall Street unfavorably, and essentially as many, 68 percent, hold an unfavorable opinion of the government in Washington. Negative views of Wall Street soar to 84 percent among liberal Democrats, versus 59 percent among conservative Republicans. Negative views of the government in Washington, meanwhile, reach 89 percent among conservative Republicans, versus 57 percent among liberal Democrats.” http://abcn.ws/oI4CCw

ROMNEY SNAGS CHRISTIE AS RELIGIOUS REMARKS SURFACE. Moments after receiving a surprise endorsement from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney addressed a Rick Perry supporter’s recent remarks that likened his Mormon faith to a “cult.” Asked by a reporter what he thought about using someone’s religion as part of the campaign, Romney said, “Gov. Perry selected an individual to introduce him who then used religion as a basis for which he said he would endorse Gov. Perry and a reason to not support me.” On Tuesday, Romney called upon Perry to renounce the Pastor’s remarks. “Gov. Perry then said that introduction just hit it out of the park, and I just don’t believe that that type of divisiveness based on religion has a place in this country,” Romney said. “And I would call upon Gov. Perry to repudiate the sentiment and the remarks made by that pastor.” But the Perry campaign declined Romney’s suggestion. “The pastor was referring to the governor and made no reference to Romney in his introductory remarks,” Ray Sullivan, Perry’s spokesman, told ABC News. As for Jeffress’ later comments on Mormonism being a cult, Perry has already repudiated that, Sullivan said: “He made it clear he does not agree with the characterization of the Mormon Church.” http://abcn.ws/nFxEpt

WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF TO LEAVE AFTER 2012. ABC’s Devin Dwyer reports: White House chief of staff Bill Daley told NBC Chicago affiliate WMAQ today that he would leave his post in the administration after the 2012 election. “I made a commitment with the president through his re-election, which I am confident he will do. Then my wife and I will be back in Chicago,” Daley said in an interview with reporter Mary Ann Ahern. Obama appointed Daley to replace Rahm Emanuel in January after Emanuel left the White House to run for mayor of Chicago. “It’s been a great honor. The president’s a terrific guy to work with and work for. And he’s really a good person,” Daley said. Asked whether he’s considering a run for office after he steps down, Daley said he had “no plans.” http://abcn.ws/nC0n5q



@ jmsummers : Gingrich asked about Christie’s endorsement on Fox: “Anything Chris Christie does is big by definition…but it probably helped Romney”

@ mike_schrimpf : WOW. Meanwhile a  @The_RGA vice chairman  @GovChristieapproval surges to 58-38 in New Jersey  bit.ly/quku1E

@ evanmc_s : TPM digs in on the ‘Chilean Model’  @THEHermanCain likes so much  bit.ly/ouWfuk

@ SalenaZitoTrib : While everyone is paying attention to the debates, no one is paying attention nationally to what is going on in Iowa locally.

@ EamonJavers : Blackberry not receiving email. Feels like 1998. Have to go to office to find out what’s going on…



Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann Rick Santorum and Gary Johnson address the New Hampshire state legislature at the State House in Concord.

Rick Santorum attends the New Hampshire Business Coalition/Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce Business Roundtable in Concord at 8 a.m. At 9:15 a.m., he speaks at the Family Research Council’s marriage rally in Concord.

Jon Huntsman holds a town hall meeting in Keene, N.H. at 4 p.m. At 6 p.m., he holds one in Marlow.

Rick Perry participates in the Indiana GOP Presidential Forum at 2 p.m., in Indianapolis, Ind.

* Newt Gingrich greets lunch goers at the Puritan Backroom Restaurant in Manchester.

* Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, lunches with voters in Nashua, N.H. at 11:45 a.m.

Ron Paul signs the Thompson Presidential Pledge in Orford, N.H., at 1:30 p.m. At 2:15 p.m., he tours the Robie Family Farm in Piermont. Paul tours Coventry Log Homes in Woodsville at 3 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m., he attends a town hall meeting in Littleton.


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


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