In reality Romney isn’t inevitable, of course. While he leads again in polls of likely GOP voters, his margin is small, and his total vote remains low for a front-runner. As of Wednesday morning, the RealClearPolitics rolling average of polls has him in first but as the choice of only 21.7 percent of Republicans.
Thus, the other storyline of Tuesday night’s Bloomberg/Post debate was the competition to be the primary conservative challenger to the front-runner. For the moment that mantle appears to have fallen to businessman/talk show host Herman Cain.
Once again, Mr. Cain proved to be a shrewd marketer, repeating over and over the name and simple concept of his 9-9-9 tax plan. Cain was the first of the candidates to field a question, and he worked 9-9-9 into his first three sentences – twice.
But with status comes burdens, and Cain was clearly the new Rick Perry – the target of the peloton’s attacks. His tax plan would eliminate the current Internal Revenue Service code, replacing it with a 9 percent tax on businesses, a 9 percent tax on personal income, and a 9 percent national sales tax. That last part – the national sales tax – was the particular target of the field’s ire.