(Updates with comment from fourth paragraph.)
Oct. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Herman Cain, taking his economic plan to rural Tennessee, said his proposed 9-9-9 tax overhaul distinguishes him from the conventional options favored by his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.
“All the other Republican candidates, God bless them all, start with the current tax code,” Cain, the new leader in some Republican primary presidential polls, said at a city park in Bartlett, Tennessee, yesterday. “It’s been a mess for decades.”
Cain rejected criticism by Texas Governor Rick Perry and other rivals that his proposed 9 percent taxes on personal and business income, along with a new 9 percent federal sales tax, would raise levies on low- and middle-income citizens.
“No, I’m not going to change” the 9-9-9 plan, Cain said in Cookesville today. “I’m not going to back down. It’s how we’re going to get this economy going again.”
The plan would replace payroll taxes now embedded in products, reducing prices to offset the new sales tax, along with eliminating capital gains and inheritance taxes, Cain said. The plan showed his business-oriented, problem-solving approach, he said.
Cain’s comments drew repeated applause at Tea Party- supported events in five small towns in Tennessee that each attracted more than 500 people. One of the largest gatherings included more than 1,500 people at an exhibition hall in Waverly, a town of about 4,000 people 65 miles west of Nashville. Cain concluded his talk by singing a gospel song, “He Looked Beyond My Faults.”
Cain’s stand on immigration policy has helped him overtake Texas Governor Rick Perry in polls, said Chuck Smith, a retired engineer and spokesman for the Roane County Tea Party in Harriman, Tennessee.
“He hit all the Tea Party buttons including taxes and immigration,” Smith said today.
The U.S. should secure its border with Mexico by building a 20-foot, barbed-wire, electrified fence, Cain said in Cookesville today. The fence would have signs, in English and Spanish, saying “it will kill you,’” he said.
Retired factory representative Jimmy Stevens of Waverly said yesterday he decided Cain was his favorite candidate about three weeks ago. “He is ultra conservative and that’s what I like,” said Stevens, a spokesman for the Humphreys County Tea Party, which helped organize the event. “We don’t want moderates or Republicans in name only.”
Cain, who reported raising $2.6 million in the third quarter, said he is campaigning in Tennessee because “the whole primary schedule has been tossed aside” with states moving up their election dates. “It makes other states much more important,” he said after speaking to about 1,000 people in the parking lot of a strip shopping center in Jackson, Tennessee.
Referring to the two states that traditionally kick off the nomination process, Cain said he has already been to Iowa “two or three times,” and also made numerous trips to New Hampshire. He plans to spend next weekend in Iowa.
Tennessee’s primary is scheduled for March 6, almost two months after the expected Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3, and more than a month after Florida will hold what may be a decisive primary on Jan. 31.
Selling to Peoria
“If you can sell it to Peoria, you can sell it anywhere, and we are about as Peoria as you can get,” said Larry Epps, vice mayor of Cookeville, Tennessee, where Cain spoke to more than 500 people at Tennessee Tech University today.
His two main competitors have raised 10 times as much money as he has, Cain said, without naming Texas Governor Rick Perry or former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. “It ain’t all about the money,” Cain said.
Romney reported that he raised $14.2 million in the period between from July 1 to Sept. 30. Perry’s campaign has said he raised about $17 million in the third quarter.
Brian Collins, a courier company owner in Cookeville, spent $50 to attend a Cain breakfast fund-raiser today at a local country club.
“He’s not Washington, and he came up the way most Americans do,” said Collins. “The fact he’s black is a bonus because it shows anyone can succeed if they persevere.” Only a handful of African-Americans attended the Cain events except in Bartlett, where there were several dozen.
Cain’s comments on his tax plan weren’t specific enough for Joyce Robinson, a retiree who said yesterday in Bartlett that she has been active in the Mid-South Tea Party since 2009.
“It was good, but I’d like to learn more,” she said. “I’m a numbers person, a mathematician and I still need to understand it better. We already have a high state sales tax in Tennessee.”
Other crowd members praised the business background of the former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive.
“I’ve never been very involved in politics, but I’m going to get involved now because we are in such a crisis,” said Jim Stiles, an owner of an insurance and tax consulting firm in Germantown yesterday. “I like the fact that Cain isn’t a politician.”
--With assistance from Jeanne Cummings in Washington. Editors: Ann Hughey, Paul Tighe
To contact the reporter on this story: David Mildenberg in Harriman, Tennessee at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org