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November 15. 2011 1:26PM

Kimball's case for Cain

In New Hampshire, Herman Cain's top surrogate is former state Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball. He is making the case for Cain around the state, including in this video from last week's New Boston Republican Committee meeting:

A few thoughts:

* Kimball is a fitting -- and problematic -- proxy for Cain. Both are conservative businessmen with little political experience. Both rose to prominence through the Tea Party movement. But Kimball's failure as party chairman is a problem for Cain because it could remind Republicans of what can happen when someone who has never been elected to office before takes charge and tries to run things like he ran his business. Kimball's lack of political skills led directly to his ouster as chairman. Cain's limited political skills have led to his mishandling of sexual harassment allegations and stumbles in debates. Voters considering Cain might well see Kimball and say, "thanks, but no thanks."

* In his New Boston pitch, Kimball unwittingly revealed the problems with Cain's 999 plan. First, the sales tax. Kimball said a $1 pen wouldn't cost $1.09 under Cain's plan, but only $1 because businesses would incorporate the tax into the retail price, so consumers wouldn't pay more. Nonsense. Businesses will not eat a 9 percent tax increase.

* He then touted Cain's plan to give incentives to companies that manufacture in the United States. A listener asked about items that contain both domestic and foreign components. Kimball wound up admitting that the incentive would increase the price of goods by increasing the cost of manufacturing, as it costs more to make things here than overseas. Walmart is New Hampshire's largest employer because so many people shop there, not caring that what they're buying is made in China. Saying that Cain would make Granite Staters pay more for goods, but it's OK because the goods will be made in America, seems to me a losing economic argument. Later, a questioner returned to the point about products with both domestic and foreign parts, and Kimball said "Herman's going to have to think these things through." That's not very reassuring.

* In the question-and-answer part, Kimball was bombarded by questions about Cain's sales tax. He tried to argue that it wouldn't be a New Hampshire sales tax, but a federal sales tax, so New Hampshire wouldn't have a sales tax. But the people seemed to understand that under Cain they would have to pay a sales tax they currently don't have to pay.

* An audience member asks, what happens if, after two Cain terms, a liberal is elected president and wants to raise 9-9-9 to 15-15-15? Kimball says Cain wants a two-thirds majority in Congress to raise taxes, but acknowledges that he might not win that fight, and even if he does the 9-9-9 rates Cain creates could simply be raised in the future.

In New Hampshire, "sales tax" is an offensive term, at least to Republicans. Cain's plan raises more questions than it answers, or more questions than Cain and his surrogates have been able to answer effectively. If you want to see why Cain would have a hard time gaining traction in New Hampshire even if he were campaigning hard here, this video shows it.

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