|Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney outlined his foreign policy on Friday|
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Herman Cain's "9-9-9" plan emerged as often as a pizza commercial during a football game on television, but Mitt Romney appeared to be the GOP nominee-in-waiting as the former Massachusetts governor scored the brightest spotlight in the Republican presidential debate late Tuesday. Romney is the national frontrunner in most major GOP primary polls and he actively contributed answers to a majority of the questions posed by moderators at the Bloomberg/Washington Post debate.
Most tellingly, four of seven possible questions were directed at Romney when moderators turned a segment of the debate over to the candidates to question each other. Unique to Tuesday's debate was that the entire discussion centered around the U.S. economy -- a subject that has been a leading topic among the Republican candidates. "I'm not going to have to call up Timothy Geithner and ask how the economy works, because I spent my life working in the economy," Romney said. "I would not be in this race if I had spent my life in politics alone." "He
Romney was holding court as the presumptive nominee. He was the one who questions were aimed at," TheStreet contributor Mallory Factor said after the event. "They gave him a lot of gravitas by continually directing things at him." The debate was held at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., a state where Romney owns a home and currently holds a massive lead in the polls. But Cain was also vocal in the debate on Tuesday as the former Godfather's Pizza CEO recently has launched into the upper tier of the polls. He touted his "9-9-9" plan -- a 9% national sales tax, 9% national income tax and 9% national corporate tax -- throughout the night. "We must grow this economy with a bold solution," Cain said. The Georgia native stressed that production would drive the economy and that risk-taking would drive growth.
Cain also rebutted a number of attacks from various candidates, which included one from Jon Huntsman when the former Utah governor said the first time he heard of Cain's "9-9-9" plan he thought it was a pizza deal. "'9-9-9' will pass, and it's not a pizza," Cain coolly responded. But Cain, who is a former chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve, balked at the question of who he would pick as chairman of the Federal Reserve if he was elected president. Cain said that he would not reappoint current Chairman Ben Bernanke, and instead said that he had two specific candidates in mind who he would decline to name. "Cain sort of opened himself up a little bit when he talked about getting rid of Bernanke, and he has two people waiting in the wings -- and of course he wouldn't even name them," Fergus Cullen, former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman, told TheStreet. "But, you know, don't even start down that road. That was a little bit of weakness." It was a quieter than usual debate for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was asked by moderator Charlie Rose to give a specific economic plan. Perry said he would begin to role out an explicit economic package in the coming days, but he did state that energy independence to grow American jobs was at the heart of his plan. "It's time for another American Declaration of Independence; it's time for energy independence," Perry said. "I think Rick Perry didn't hurt himself tonight, but that in itself isn't victory. I don't think he helped himself a great deal either," Cullen said. "Perry did nothing wrong, and he did pretty much everything right," Factor said. "But that was not good enough." The most unassuming master stroke of Romney's evening may have come when it was his turn to ask a candidate a question. Instead of provoking the Texas governor who has been on the receiving end of an endless stream of Romney's criticism, the former Massachusetts governor addressed Rep. Michele Bachmann. "It was very smart to go to Bachmann," Factor said. "It was not an attacking question. If he had gone to Cain, or he had asked Perry, it would have given them more substance, more gravitas." But it would be unwise to assume that the man with a commanding lead in New Hampshire will take the state without a fight.
"I don't see Romney leading wire to wire without being very strongly tested by someone along the way," Cullen said. "The voters here
New Hampshire don't want to see somebody just lead the whole way." -- Written by Joe Deaux in New York. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org