Debate Day: Showdown On The Strip (The Note)

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

LAS VEGAS — Rick Perry has come to Sin City in search of forgiveness — a little absolution for past debate performances that even he acknowledges have been less than stellar.

“I tell people, I say ‘I’m not the best debater on the stage, but I’ve got the best record,” he said in an interview with the local Las Vegas television station KTNV. “I think that’s what Americans are interested in. Don’t give us a bunch of rhetoric. Tell us how to get this country working again.”

He doesn’t need to leave Las Vegas with the presidential debate equivalent of a jackpot, but he can’t go home empty-handed either.

Tonight’s CNN-Western Republican Leadership Conference debate, which begins at 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific, is the last such contest for several weeks and Perry is looking to regain his support among Republican primary voters, many of whom have soured on him since he entered the race in late summer.

As ABC’s Matthew Jaffe notes, when Perry, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and four of their other rivals take the stage at the Venetian Hotel and Casino tonight, Nevada issues are sure to be front and center because the Silver State is plagued by many of the same problems facing the country: massive foreclosures, high unemployment, and the immigration question, to name a few.

“Nevada leads the nation in a few categories that no state wants to win: tops in foreclosures and tops in unemployment,” Jaffe notes. “For an election that seems likely to turn on economic matters, expect the candidates to hone in on their plans to propel the country out of recession. In fact, Romney last month chose to unveil his economic proposal in a speech just outside this city.”

Romney’s task tonight will be to keep doing what he’s good at: staying focused on laying out the ideas he’s been talking up on the campaign trail, punching back when necessary and keeping himself above it all as much as possible.

Perry, on the other hand, is in a tougher spot. His challenge is to try to give some clarity to his policy proposals and to deal with both Romney and a surging Herman Cain, who has zipped right by him in most national polls. (As we noted this week, when it comes to the 2012 money primary, Romney and Perry currently have no equals in the GOP field.)

We expect Cain to get some tough questions — a natural part of the vetting process, but take note: the more the mainstream media and his Republican opponents criticize him for an “overly-simplistic” 9-9-9 plan or mocks his lack of inside-the-Beltway policy polish, the better he will do among GOP primary voters.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Perry called the 9-9-9 plan “a catchy phrase,” but one that could be “devastating, and Americans will figure that out.”

However, remember that Cain’s appeal is that he’s not like anyone else. He’s the only real outsider in a year where the status quo is as unpopular as ever.

@ andreamsaul : NEW VIDEO:  @GovernorPerry refuses to admit TX unemployment has doubled on his watch  #ItsaFact

DEMOCRATIC COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. Democratic National Committee Communications Director Brad Woodhouse is circulating a memo previewing tonight’s debate, which he writes “will continue to show a sharp contrast between the President, who is working hard to create more jobs and grow the economy, and the GOP candidates, whose plans would fail to create jobs, could actually make the economy worse, and would simply provide more tax breaks for special interests and millionaires and billionaires — all while opposing economic relief for the middle class and common-sense protections for families and consumers.  As the GOP presidential candidates and their Republican allies in Congress attempt to push through policies that would devastate the middle class and undermine our nation’s economic security, they refuse to work with President Obama to pass the  American Jobs Act, the President’s jobs proposal which includes solutions which have garnered bipartisan support in the past and that would get more Americans back to work and put more money back into the pockets of middle-class families and small businesses.”

EXCLUSIVE: TAPPER TALKS TO OBAMA. Facing the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and almost a year to the day until the 2012 election, ABC News’ “Nightline” has exclusive access to President Obama. ABCs’ Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper spends today with the president as he travels by bus to sell his jobs bill in the battleground states of North Carolina and Virginia. Tapper will ask him about the jobs crisis, the threat of a double dip recession, and his views on the Republican field, among other topics. The full interview will air tonight on a special edition of “Nightline.” Portions of the interview will also be seen on “World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer” and will be featured across ABC News platforms including “Good Morning America,”, ABC News Radio, ABC NewsOne, and ABC News NOW. Excerpts and transcripts will be available on Jake’s blog “Political Punch” on Wednesday.

WHITE HOUSE WATCH: ON THE ROAD AGAIN. From ABC’s Mary Bruce: President Obama will spend the second day of his bus tour pushing for Congress to pass portions of his jobs bill at events in North Carolina and Virginia. He will hold a roundtable meeting with teachers at Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, N.C. and deliver remarks at the college. Later the president’s bus will roll into Virginia where he will visit a high school computer lab and observe a robotics demonstration, before delivering remarks at Greensville County High School in Emporia, Va. in the evening. We also expect several unannounced stops along the drive from Jamestown, N.C., to Emporia, Va.


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Z. Byron Wolf talk to Philip Rucker, a political reporter with The Washington Post, who has been covering Mitt Romney extensively  on the campaign trail. Also on the program, Richard Schultz, CEO of Floop, a poll-your-friends application. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.  


ABC’S GRANITE STATE DEBATE. ABC News and WMUR-TV, ABC’s Hearst-owned affiliate in Manchester, N.H., are joining forces once again to host a Republican presidential candidate debate in New Hampshire just days before the Granite State’s first in the nation primary — a critical moment in the Republican nomination process. It will be the only broadcast network debate in primetime before the primary and will take place on the Saturday night preceding the primary from 9:00-11:00pm/ET. The debate will air live nationally on the ABC Television Network and locally on WMUR-TV and will be moderated by ABC’s Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos; they will be joined by WMUR-TV anchor Josh McElveen.  The debate will stream live on, Yahoo!, and ABC News Radio, the nation’s largest commercial radio news organization, will carry it live on its stations. ABC News will re-air an excerpted version of the debate the following Sunday morning on “This Week with Christiane Amanpour.” The candidates will be asked about the critical issues the country faces in front of a live audience at Saint Anselm College in Manchester. Eligibility criteria for a candidate’s participation will be posted on later this week.

IN THE NOTE’S INBOX: “The Heritage Foundation will co-host a Republican presidential debate on foreign policy and national security with the American Enterprise Institute and CNN, officials of the two Washington-based think tanks and the worldwide cable news organization announced late tonight. The Republican candidates’ debate, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 8 p.m. at a Washington location to be announced shortly, will air nationally on CNN and CNN en Español and worldwide on CNN International, CNN Radio and … The debate will mark the first time that either Heritage or AEI has sponsored a presidential debate. Details such as format will be announced later, said spokesmen for CNN and the two nonprofit, nonpartisan research institutes.”



HERMAN AND HIS FENCE. “It was a joke!” presidential candidate Herman  Cain told reporters yesterday when asked about the proposal he has floated for an electric fence along the U.S. border with Mexico, according to ABC’s Susan Archer. Let me first say it was a joke and some people don’t think it was a good joke and it’s probably not a joke that you’re supposed to make if you’re a presidential candidate. I apologized if it offended anyone. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa!” But Cain seemed to suggest that he would still be in favor of an electrified fence. “There are three alternatives or combination thereof that I believe that we can use to secure the border. One is a real fence – maybe not for the whole stretch, but for part of it. Secondly, technology. We’ve got the technology that we can put in place. And thirdly, in some of the more dangerous areas, we might need to put boots on the ground in order to protect citizens and help and enforce our, help beef up the security of our border agents.” Pressed on why he was not taking ownership of his comments, Cain almost seemed to backtrack on his original backtrack. I think we’re splitting hairs here. I don’t like to offend anyone and this young lady’s question made me feel that maybe I offended someone,” Cain said at an appearance in Arizona. “I don’t apologize for using a combination of a fence and it might be electrified. I’m not walking away from that, I just don’t want to offend anybody. It was a joke to the extent in the context of how it was used in that speech, but in terms of what we need to do, I fully intend to do so because I’m more sensitive to our citizens being hurt.”

MITT ROMNEY’S BILL GARDNER PROBLEM. The Secretary of State of New Hampshire has the power to set the date of the Granite State’s primary and maybe even Mitt Romney’s future, ABC Political Director Amy Walter writes. Bespectacled and balding, Secretary of State Bill Gardner doesn’t exactly cut an intimidating figure. But, every four years he finds a way to become the center of the political universe. With sole control over setting the date of New Hampshire’s “First in the Nation” primary, Gardner takes pride in defending this small state from encroachment by big state bullies who want to steal their place as the retail campaign capital of the country.  As he’s done before when he’s felt the state’s status is being encroached upon, Gardner is threatening to move the state’s primary into December. Nevada’s decision to make January 14 the date of its caucuses means that, by New Hampshire law, a primary can be held no later than January 7. But, that is just a mere four days – not the required seven day window – after the January 3 Iowa Caucuses. While most political pros see little choice for Gardner but to accept a January 7 or January 10 date, there are some in New Hampshire that think that the 35-year incumbent may not be bluffing. But a December 6 or December 13th primary — two dates Gardner has suggested are acceptable could make for big problems for Romney. First, December is less than two months away. And, Romney is way ahead in just about every poll in the state. Candidates not named Romney — or Jon Huntsman, who has staked his entire candidacy on this state — would likely concede the race to the former Massachusetts Governor. Plus any momentum from an early December primary would soon be drowned out by the sounds of the Holidays.

HUNTSMAN HEARTS N.H. Yes, he is polling around 1 percent nationally. Yes, his campaign is almost $900K in debt. But when it comes to preserving the tradition of the nation’s first primary, Jon Huntsman has positioned himself at the front of the pack, ABC’s Sarah Kunin notes. When the Huntsman campaign announced Thursday that the former governor would boycott the Nevada caucus if it threatened New Hampshire’s ‘first-in-the-nation’ status, five of the top seven GOP candidates were quick to follow suit. Huntsman then took it one step further, announcing he would skip CNN’s Las Vegas debate entirely, instead hosting a Hopkinton, NH town hall. Huntsman’s campaign even tried to appeal to his GOP rivals, calling to join them in “avoiding typical hypocritical politics by paying lip service to New Hampshire, while campaigning in Nevada.” As of now, Huntsman will be the only absent from the stage. “This is a Vegas move,” Huntsman admitted Monday to CNN’s Piers Morgan.”But this is where you upend the traditional politics. I like where we’re going in New Hampshire. All the polls show we’re going up. We’re in low double digits. We want a steady, gradual, substantive rise, because that’s what the people of New Hampshire demand. And whoever makes it through the New Hampshire primary always bursts upon the political stage with viability.”

CAIN USING CAMPAIGN CASH FOR MEMOIR. “Republican presidential contender Herman Cain used campaign funds to buy his own books from his motivational speaking company, Federal Election Commission records show,” Bloomberg’s Jonathan D. Salant and Joshua Green note. “Although his autobiography was published by a division of Simon & Schuster Inc., Cain paid Stockbridge, Georgia-based T.H.E New Voice Inc. $36,511 for books. His campaign spent $4 million through Sept. 30, including more than $64,000 paid to his motivational speaking company for airfare, lodging and supplies, as well as the books. ”They are buying my books and my pamphlets,” Cain said in an interview in between appearances in Arizona yesterday. “The campaign is buying them from T.H.E New Voice.” Cain’s autobiography, “This is Herman Cain! My Journey to the White House,” made its debut over the weekend in fourth place on the New York Times bestseller list. Cain said the sales are in compliance with FEC rules because the campaign is paying the going rate for the material.”

BEHIND RON PAUL’S ECONOMIC PLAN. One month after and less than 10 miles away from the spot where Mitt Romney laid out his 59-point plan to create 11.5 million jobs, his fellow GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul today put forth a plan that would slash $1 trillion from the federal budget in the first term of a Paul presidency,” ABC’s Amy Bingham reports. “But where Romney’s plan focused on job creation, Paul’s No. 1 goal is reducing the size of the federal government and balancing the budget, which his plan achieves by wiping out five cabinet departments and gutting funding to many others. Paul claims his plan would produce a budget surplus by 2015. ‘I would say it’s an economic growth plan and an avoiding of disaster plan,’ said Chris Edwards, the editor of the libertarian Cato Institute’s ‘I don’t think the government is very good at creating jobs, so I don’t think that should be the focus of federal policy.’ Under a Paul presidency the departments of Energy, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce and Interior would cease to exist. Their elimination would slice about $179 billion from the federal budget and cut about 134,000 federal jobs. Paul said his plan would not lay people off, but would transfer them to other departments until they retire.”

HILL GOP TURNED OFF BY 9-9-9. “Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax plan might have swept him to the top of Republican presidential polls, but the conservatives who would be called on to pass his proposal in the House are not as enamored,” writes The Hill’s Russell Berman. “In interviews, several House GOP leaders on tax policy singled out Cain’s call for a new 9 percent sales tax as a chief obstacle, saying it would represent a fresh federal revenue stream that could easily be raised in future years. ‘That would be an initial concern,’ said Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees tax policy. ‘You are now creating a new federal tax without eliminating a federal tax, so that would be an initial concern.’ … Cain’s biggest headache could be in the Republican-controlled House, where party leaders have already begun charting a different course on comprehensive tax reform. The GOP budget blueprint, authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and passed by the House in April, would simplify the tax code and lower the top marginal income rate and the corporate rate to 25 percent. It would not create a new sales tax.”


@ bethreinhard : Big get for Romney in FL: Endorsement of Ag Comm (and future gov?) Adam Putnam

@ cjbond : New NRSC web ad — remember this as Tim Kaine runs from Pres. Obama in Virginia this week:  #VASEN

@ tackettdc : Ron Klain’s take: Romney, Perry Find Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan Isn’t So Simple via  @BloombergView #2012

@ Chris_Moody : Obama’s telemprompters were stolen! Sources say Obama was shocked, even speechless. (sorry…)

@ ThePlumLineGS : How directly should Dems attack Romney’s wealth? DNC uncorks most direct shot yet, painting him as rich fop:



* CNN and the Western Republican Leadership Conference will host a GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas. The debate will be broadcast by CNN starting at 8 p.m. Eastern/5 p.m. Pacific.

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