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MR. HERMAN CAIN: Nine, nine, nine. Jobs, jobs, jobs.
MR. DAVID GREGORY: Herman Cain has vaulted to the top of the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, ahead of Mitt Romney. What's behind his popularity? And can it last now that his signature tax reform plan is getting more scrutiny?
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): If you turn the 9-9-9 plan upside-down, you find out pretty quick the devil's in the details.
MR. GREGORY: And more jabs from his rivals, including Rick Perry's wife.
MS. ANITA PERRY: When I hear 9-9-9, I want to call 9-1-1 because it will raise the taxes.
MR. GREGORY: This morning our Meet the Candidates series continues as I go one-on-one with Herman Cain. Then, more of our special look at the state of the GOP race. Mitt Romney performs well in the debates, but why is his support among conservatives static? Can Rick Perry steady himself with a new jobs plan after a stunning fall in the polls? Is this really a two-man race? A debate this morning between two top surrogates. For Romney, former presidential candidate and governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty; and for Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
Also this morning, our Sunday Breakdown. NBC's Chuck Todd and the BBC's Katty Kay take us inside the candidates' playbook for victory and give us an up-close look at the White House re-election game plan.
Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
MR. GREGORY: Good morning. Today we go inside the fight for the Republican presidential nomination. Our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out this week shows that Herman Cain is the front-runner, ahead of both Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. Mr. Cain, a businessman, syndicated columnist, radio talk show host and former CEO of Godfather's Pizza turned presidential candidate is the man of the moment, and he's joining us this morning as part of our Meet the Candidates series.
Mr. Cain, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.
MR. CAIN: David, I'm delighted to be here.
MR. GREGORY: Your big idea is to throw out the tax code.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: Tax reform is a way to create jobs and spur economic growth.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: The reality of the 9-9-9 plan is this, I'll put it up on the screen, it is to have a 9 percent corporate income tax, 9 percent personal income tax, 9 percent sales tax. Everything else is gone.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: The reality of the plan is that some people pay more, some people pay less. This is how The Washington Post reported it on Friday, we'll put it up on the screen. "Experts see surprise in Cain's 9-9-9 plan. The `9-9-9' plan that has helped propel businessman Cain to the front of the GOP presidential field would stick many poor and middle-class people with a hefty tax increase while cutting taxes for those at the top, tax analysts say. ...
"Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, is working on an analysis of Cain's signature proposal. Although the plan's details remain sketchy, Williams said it would increase taxes for the poor and middle class, despite Cain's statements to the contrary.
"For starters, about 30 million of the poorest households pay neither income taxes nor Social Security or Medicare levies. `So for them,'" he says, "`doing away with the payroll tax doesn't save anything. And you are adding both a 9 percent sales tax and 9 percent income tax. So we know they will be worse off.'" That's the reality, Mr. Cain. Without making a judgment about it, why do you think that's an acceptable reality for the overall goal of reform?
MR. CAIN: First, they're missing one very critical point about the sales tax. It wasn't even mentioned in that analysis that you read. On the price of goods, there are invisible taxes that are built into everything we buy. We'll simply--those invisible taxes are going to go away. And we're replacing them with a 9 percent visible tax. For example, take a loaf of bread. The farmer pays taxes on his profits. The company that makes the flour, the baker, the delivery man. By the time that loaf of bread gets to the grocery store, there are a series of invisible taxes, which are also called embedded taxes. So, in reality, those taxes go away and so the price of goods don't go up.
MR. GREGORY: You're saying they actually go down?
MR. CAIN: Yes, they actually go down.
MR. GREGORY: Based on what?
MR. CAIN: Based upon competition. Competition drives prices down. For example, suppose one breadmaker says, "I'm going to charge $2.20 for a loaf of bread," and the other one says he's going to charge $2.40 for a loaf of bread. Well, guess which one is going to win out based upon the quality being essentially the same?
MR. GREGORY: My question had to do, however, with the reality of this plan.
MR. CAIN: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: The wealthiest Americans would pay less, the poorest Americans and middle class would pay more. You don't dispute that.
MR. CAIN: I do dispute that. You are making--you and others are making assumptions about what wealthy Americans would do with their money, and you're making assumptions about what the middle class and the poor. You can't predict the behavior. If wealthy Americans...
MR. GREGORY: This isn't about behavior, Mr. Cain, this is about whether you pay--if you don't pay taxes now, and you now have income tax and a sales tax, you pay more in taxes.
MR. CAIN: More people will pay less in taxes. More people will pay less in taxes when you consider all the taxes.
MR. GREGORY: Mr. Cain, we talked to independent analysts ourselves.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: We're not just reading newspaper clips here.
MR. CAIN: Understand.
MR. GREGORY: They tell us, they've looked at this, based on what's available of the plan, and it's incontrovertible.
MR. CAIN: David...
MR. GREGORY: People--there are people who will pay more.
MR. CAIN: That's right. Some people will pay more, but most people would pay less is my argument.
MR. GREGORY: Who will pay more?
MR. CAIN: Who will pay more? The people who spend more money on new goods. The sales tax only applies to people who buy new goods, not used goods. That's a big difference that doesn't come out.
MR. GREGORY: For those 30 million Americans who don't pay income tax...
MR. CAIN: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: ...including 16 million elderly Americans, you can see they would, in fact, pay more.
MR. CAIN: Not the elderly. That's two different groups. Let's talk about the elderly. You don't pay taxes on your Social Security income. It replaces the tax--the capital gains tax. Many of the elderly make money off of their investments. They won't pay that. Tax on dividends and tax on income generated from investments, you only pay once. So, in that sense, it helps the elderly.
MR. GREGORY: The other defect in the plan comes from fellow conservatives who say, "You've got some problems here." This is what The Wall Street Journal said about it this past week. "The real political defect," the Journal writes, "of the Cain plan is that it imposes a new national sales tax while maintaining the income tax. Mr. Cain's rates are seductively low, but the current income tax was introduced in 1913 with a top rate of 7 percent amid promises that it would never exceed 10 percent. By 1918 the top rate was 77 percent. The politics of a national sales tax is bad enough on its own. A 9 percent rate when combined with state and local levies would mean a tax on goods of 17 percent or more in many places. The cries for exemptions would be great."
MR. CAIN: Don't combine it with state taxes. This doesn't address state taxes. If you add them together, yes, you'll get that number. This is a replacement structure. These are replacement taxes. They're not on top of anything.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. CAIN: We replace capital gains tax. We replace the payroll tax. We replace corporate income tax, replace personal income tax, and replace the death tax. It is a replacement tax structure.
MR. GREGORY: But where do state taxes go? You're saying they're going to be repealed?
MR. CAIN: If you--with the current structure, you have state taxes, right? So with this new structure, you're still going to have taxes--state taxes. That is muddying the water.
MR. GREGORY: How so?
MR. CAIN: Because today, under the current tax code, state taxes are there if they have it. If they don't have a state taxes, they don't have it. It has nothing to do with this replacement structure for the federal tax code.
MR. GREGORY: But that doesn't make any sense to me. If I'm already paying state taxes, and I have a new Cain administration national sales tax, I've got more state taxes.
MR. CAIN: No you don't.
MR. GREGORY: How so?
MR. CAIN: David, David.
MR. GREGORY: You're not saying they're going away.
MR. CAIN: Your state taxes are the same. Your federal taxes, in most cases, are going to go down. That's muddying the water.
MR. GREGORY: The Wall Street Journal says you have one on top of the other. There's a combined levy.
MR. CAIN: That is not correct, David.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MR. CAIN: Let's try this one more time. State taxes are there today. The current tax code is a 10 million word mess. You have probably 100--you have thousands of loopholes and tricks and what I call "sneak attaxes" in the current code. State taxes today, whatever they are, zero or some number, has nothing to do with replacing the tax code. Nothing.
MR. GREGORY: The godfather, forgive the term, of tax reform in this town, Grover Norquist, said at this point he would advise Republicans to vote no on 9-9-9, and the reason is he doesn't like new revenue streams. And that's what you're creating with a sales tax.
MR. CAIN: Well, in the current tax code, there are sneak attaxes and ways that the American people get taxed that we don't even know about. What 9-9-9 does, it makes it very visible, so that the American people can hold the feet of Congress to the fire. That's the thing that we have that the current tax code does not have.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about political reality.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: Speaker of the House John Boehner has talked about how difficult tax reform would be at this particular juncture. There is a debate going on about tax reform.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: There is no agreement right now between Republicans and Democrats about changing marginal rates. That's step one in 9-9-9.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: Let alone the end of the process. How do you get it passed?
MR. CAIN: The following way, here's how we get it passed. First, throw out the current tax code. Secondly, because the American people understand it, the American people are embracing it. See, this is the problem that some people inside Washington have with 9-9-9. The American people understand it. The American people are embracing it such that when I have this legislation--ask Congress to introduce this legislation, the American people will understand it, and they are going to demand it. That's how we get it passed.
MR. GREGORY: So is your slogan going to be hope and change?
MR. CAIN: No. No.
MR. GREGORY: When it comes to 9-9-9?
MR. CAIN: No. It's not...
MR. GREGORY: But how do you, how do you--I mean, look, we've had presidents, President Bush came to town...
MR. CAIN: Right.
MR. GREGORY: ...saying he could change the politics here, could change the way of doing business. President Obama said the same thing. What I suggested is that, according to our leadership right now, there is an intractable difference about lowering marginal rates. Now, you're saying you can build support to throw out the entire tax code.
MR. CAIN: Yes, that's what I'm saying.
MR. GREGORY: Based on what?
MR. CAIN: Based upon the...
MR. GREGORY: How do you do it?
MR. CAIN: Hey, David, based upon the many speeches I've given, when I talk to people. I've been out there talking to voters. That's what. Look, ultimately they want to get--they're going to listen to their constituency. The assumption is they're not going to listen to the people. There is a huge amount of public support for 9-9-9. Just talk to anybody. This is what's going to help us get it passed, the public support.
Now here's one other thing that I'm doing differently than maybe...
MR. GREGORY: You--well, I'm just trying--want to break that down. So you're acknowledging this morning, which I haven't heard you do before, that there are individuals who are going to pay more in taxes.
MR. CAIN: There are some, yes.
MR. GREGORY: And you think those people are going to rally around tax reform where the wealthy play***(as spoken)***less and middle-class and lower income folks pay more.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: You think that's going to create a grassroots support for this.
MR. CAIN: Oh yes, because, if they do the math, do the math on your individual situation, people are going to benefit several other ways other than whether they pay more in taxes. The fact that they're not going to have the cost of filing and compliance. That's a $430 billion bill for all of us every year. So if they do the math on their individual situation, I believe that they--more people are going to see it's advantageous.
Now, here is another way, another piece of the puzzle that will help me get this passed. Public support and simplicity. Simplicity and public support because they understand it is what's going to allow the public to help put pressure on Congress to get this passed. That's my plan.
MR. GREGORY: Let me move on to some other issues and some of your views, which I think a lot of Americans haven't heard about. A lot of attention on these Wall Street protests right now.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: You've written about, you've reacted to it. Do you empathize, as the president does, with the message of those Wall Street protesters?
MR. CAIN: What is their message? That's what's unclear. If that message is, "Let's punish the rich," I don't empathize with that message. They should be protesting the White House. The White House has basically enacted failed economic policies. The White House and the Democrats have spent $1 trillion that did not work. Now the president wants to pass another $450 billion. They have their frustrations directed at the wrong group. That's what I'm saying.
MR. GREGORY: You've talked as well about liberals in the country. You gave a speech in February where you didn't mince words. This is what you said.
MR. CAIN: The objective of the liberals is to destroy this country.
MR. GREGORY: To destroy this country. How so?
MR. CAIN: Economically. Look at this economy. David, the engine of economic growth is the business sector. We are growing at an anemic 1, 1 1/2 percent. If we allow this economy to continue to go down, it would destroy our economic capability. And, as a result, we are now looking at how much in defense we can cut. That's destroying it. It...
MR. GREGORY: You think liberals actually seek to do that, that that's their mission, to destroy the economy?
MR. CAIN: I--that's the conclusion that I have drawn.
MR. GREGORY: Not mismanagement.
MR. CAIN: No!
MR. GREGORY: But it's their mission.
MR. CAIN: It is their mission. Because they do not believe in a stronger America, in my opinion. Yes.
MR. GREGORY: You've also said that stupid people are ruining America.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: Who exactly are you talking about?
MR. CAIN: People who are uninformed. People who will not look at an alternate idea. People who are so dug in with partisanship and partisan politics. Open-mindedness is what's going to save this country. The reason that my message is appealing is because it's simple and people can understand it. You know, a good idea transcends party politics. But there are some people who will not even consider 9-9-9 or any other proposal if it's coming from someone of the opposite political persuasion.
MR. GREGORY: Is race a factor in this campaign?
MR. CAIN: Absolutely not. I have a lot of black people that are saying that they are going to vote for me if I get the nomination, and they're going to vote for me in the primary, not because of my color, but because of my ideas. They love the simplicity of 9-9-9. They love the simplicity of my approach to energy. We need to become energy independent. People are connected with my ideals and solutions. Many of the other candidates running for the nomination, they're talking about the problem and they're talking about generic solutions. I am putting specific solutions on the table.
MR. GREGORY: This is the cover of Newsweek magazine that'll hit stands this week. It is "Yes we Cain!: The Unlikely Rise of the Anti-Obama," talking about you. You've actually talked a bit about race, though, and you've created a contrast between yourself and your experience as an African-American, a term you don't like, by the way.
MR. CAIN: I prefer black American.
MR. GREGORY: Why? Why is that?
MR. CAIN: Because my roots go back through slavery in this country. Yes, they came from Africa, but the roots of my heritage are in the United States of America. So I consider myself a black American.
MR. GREGORY: So you draw some distinction between yourself and your experiences as a black man in America and the experience of President Obama.
MR. CAIN: Absolutely. I came from very humble beginnings. My mother was a maid, my father was a barber and janitor and a chauffeur. We, we had to, we had to learn--do things the old-fashioned way. We had to work for it. I--my parents never saw themselves as a victim, so I didn't learn how to be a victim. I didn't have anything given to me. I had to work very hard in order to be able to go to school and work my way through school. So, plus, my business experience, I have run small businesses. I have actually made pizzas, made hamburgers. I've actually had to do the inventory, clean the parking lot of a business. I've also had to...(unintelligible)...businesses.
MR. GREGORY: You're talking about business experience. You actually said President Obama's outside the mainstream. So you're making a different, more of a social cultural background distinction between you and the president.
MR. CAIN: More experiential. Look at his experiences vs. my experiences. It was more at a contrast of experiential differences than anything else.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about foreign policy...
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: ...an area that, that comes up at a time when the nation's at war. We face terrorist threats, the Middle East is roiling.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: The Iranian plot. Was this an act of war?
MR. CAIN: After I looked at all of the information provided by the intelligence community, the military, then I could make that decision. I can't make that decision because I'm not privy to all of that information.
MR. GREGORY: You don't have a view about what the Iranians have done?
MR. CAIN: I, I do, I, I do have a view. But what I'm saying, David, is I'm not going to say it was an act of war based upon news reports, with all due respect. I would hope that the president and all of his advisers are considering all of the factors in determining just how much, how much the Iranians participated in this.
MR. GREGORY: How would President Cain respond to this?
MR. CAIN: Well, President Cain would first make sure that he's making the right decision based upon all of the information. I, as a candidate, don't have all of the information. So, at this point, I can't say how I would respond. If, if it's an act of war, and the evidence suggests that, then I am going to consult with my advisers and say, "What are our options?"
MR. GREGORY: What about foreign policy advisers? Who, who has shaped your thinking about the U.S. in the world and foreign policy?
MR. CAIN: I've looked at the writings of people like Ambassador John Bolton. I've looked at the writings of Dr. Harry--Henry Kissinger. KT McFarland, someone who I respect. So...
MR. GREGORY: Would you describe yourself as a neoconservative then?
MR. CAIN: I'm not sure what you mean by neoconservative? I am a conservative, yes. Neoconservative, labels sometimes will put you in a box. I'm very conservative, but...
MR. GREGORY: But you're familiar with the neoconservative movement?
MR. CAIN: I'm not familiar with the neoconservative movement. I'm familiar with the conservative movement. And let me define what I mean by the conservative movement. Less government, less taxes, more individual responsibility.
MR. GREGORY: Were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan a mistake?
MR. CAIN: I don't think the war in Iraq was a mistake because there were a lot of other reasons we needed to go to Iraq, and there have been a lot of benefits that have come out of Iraq. Now, that being said, I don't agree with the president's approach to drawdown 40,000 troops and basically leave that, leave that country open to attacks by Iran. Iran has already said that they want to wait till America leaves...
MR. GREGORY: So President Cain would want, even beyond the deadline, leave American troops there?
MR. CAIN: I would want to leave American troops there if that was what the commanders on the ground suggested. And I believe that that's what they are saying.
MR. GREGORY: How would you define victory in Afghanistan?
MR. CAIN: In Afghanistan, victory is, can we leave Afghanistan in a situation where they can defend themselves? I don't know if that's possible right now because, here again, what do the commanders on the ground say? What does the intelligence community say? A lot of analysis needs to into determining whether or not there is a definition of victory in Afghanistan.
MR. GREGORY: You said in the summertime, you told my colleague Savannah Guthrie, that you were still getting up to speed about foreign policy. You remember in the last campaign Hillary Clinton ran that ad against President Obama, then Senator Obama, "the 3 AM phone call."
MR. CAIN: Right.
MR. GREGORY: You know, the--in an international crisis, you want to know that the commander in chief is tested and ready. What do you say to Americans who wonder whether you're ready at this point to be commander in chief.
MR. CAIN: I would say to them, `First of all, consider my philosophy to foreign policy and my principles.' That's where you start. You can collect the information and make an informed decision. My philosophy is an extension of the Reagan philosophy, peace through strength and clarity. It's not clear who all of our friends are. It's not clear who our enemies are. I believe we need to clearly define who our friends are, clearly define who our enemies are, and then let the rest of the world know we will stand by our friends.
MR. GREGORY: Here's a general question. You said you wouldn't rely on wise men, so-called wise men, when it comes to foreign policy views, although you mentioned Henry Kissinger just a moment ago, that you're familiar with his writings. Generally speaking, you know, what, what you have as a great strength, I think to many, is no government experience. But you have no government experience whatsoever, and you want to do some big things. Explain that vision. I mean, would you bring outsiders in to Washington? Would you eschew the establishment of Washington and do things in a completely different way, maybe like Jimmy Carter?
MR. CAIN: Don't use Jimmy Carter as the example.
MR. GREGORY: Perhaps not ideologically.
MR. CAIN: Not ideological--don't--that's not a good example. Secondly, I don't recall saying I would not use wise men and wise women. My philosophy on...
MR. GREGORY: You wrote that in your book. "I won't lean on so-called `wise men' as other commanders in chief have done."
MR. CAIN: Well, let me explain what that means. I'm going to have a combination of people that are outside government and people that are inside government. As much as I and others talk about many of the problems that are perceived outside of Washington as what's going on inside Washington, D.C., there are some good people inside Washington, D.C., holding elected office that I am going to lean on and I'm going to call upon. But I'm also going to bring in people who understand, understand defining the right problem, knowing how to put--surround yourself with good people, and then putting together the right plans based upon some guiding principles that I have established throughout my career and I will establish as president.
MR. GREGORY: A few more, just some, some quick ones here.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: On immigration, you said at an event in Tennessee that you would build an electrified fence on the border that could kill people if they try to cross illegally.
MR. CAIN: That's a joke, David.
MR. GREGORY: It's a joke, so that was...
MR. CAIN: It's a joke. That's a joke.
MR. GREGORY: That's not a serious plan?
MR. CAIN: That's not a serious plan.
MR. GREGORY: OK.
MR. CAIN: No, it's not.
MR. GREGORY: You got a big laugh out of that, but that's not what you'd do.
MR. CAIN: That, that's a joke. that's a joke. I've also said America needs to get a sense of humor. That was a joke, OK?
MR. GREGORY: OK. So that's not serious.
MR. CAIN: Now, but, but...
MR. GREGORY: Would you, would you, would you deport illegal immigrants in the country now?
MR. CAIN: That--here's my approach to illegal immigration. Here, here again, this is what's resonating with people, how I would solve the problem. It's not as simple as, "Would you deport?" We must secure the border. Now, it'd be a combination of a physical fence, technology, and, in some terrible areas, we might have to put troops there. We must secure the border. Secondly, we must promote the path to citizenship that's already there. We need to clean up the bureaucracy. Third, enforce the laws that are already there. Now, the way you do that is, is number four, which is a bold idea. Empower the states to do what the federal government can't do and won't do as far as dealing with the illegals that are in the United States today.
MR. GREGORY: A couple more. Same sex marriage. Would you seek a constitutional ban for same sex marriage?
MR. CAIN: I wouldn't seek a constitutional ban for same sex marriage, but I am pro traditional marriage.
MR. GREGORY: But you would let the states make up their own mind as they're doing now?
MR. CAIN: They would make up their own minds, yes.
MR. GREGORY: What about abortion? You want to overturn Roe v. Wade. Could you support or condone abortion under any exceptions at all?
MR. CAIN: I believe in life from conception, and I do not agree with abortion under any circumstances.
MR. GREGORY: Exceptions for rape and incest?
MR. CAIN: Not for rape and incest because...
MR. GREGORY: What about life of the mother?
MR. CAIN: Because if you look at, you look at rape and incest, the, the percentage of those instances is so miniscule that there are other options. If it's the life of the mother, that family's going to have to make that decision.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm. But you can--would you condone abortion if the life of the mother were...
MR. CAIN: That family is going to have to make that...
MR. GREGORY: You won't render a judgment on that.
MR. CAIN: That family is going to have to make that decision.
MR. GREGORY: What about the Supreme Court? Who's your model of the ideal Supreme Court justice who you would appoint?
MR. CAIN: I would say that there are several that I have a lot of respect for. Justice Clarence Thomas is one of them. I believe that Justice Clarence Thomas, despite all of the attacks that he gets from the left, he basically rules and makes his decisions, in my opinion, based upon the Constitution and solid legal thinking. Justice Clarence Thomas is one of my models.
MR. GREGORY: Has he been targeted unfairly, you think?
MR. CAIN: I think he has been targeted unfairly.
MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about your family. Your, your wife of 43 years, Gloria...
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: ...we haven't seen her campaigning. Is she a reluctant candidate's spouse?
MR. CAIN: No! My wife supports me 200 percent. But let me tell you why you haven't seen my wife. I'm running a different kind of a campaign. My wife and I, we have a family life, and she is maintaining the calmness and the tranquility of that family life so, when I do get a day off of the campaign trail, I can go home and enjoy my family. Secondly, I don't want to subject my wife and my family to the rigors and the attacks and the criticism of this campaign at this point. She will be visible at some point, but it'll be based upon when we want her to be visible, not when the powers that be or the media wants her to be visible. She supports me 200 percent.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Before you go, quick ones on the campaign.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: I showed the polls. Are you the front-runner now?
MR. CAIN: I am one of the front-runners because, as you know, the polls can go up and down from one week to another.
MR. GREGORY: Well, you talk about that. I mean, look what we've seen so far in this race.
MR. CAIN: Yes.
MR. GREGORY: Trump, Bachmann, Perry, they were all up, they were all the anti-Romney...
MR. CAIN: Right.
MR. GREGORY: ...and they all came down.
MR. CAIN: Right.
MR. GREGORY: What makes you different?
MR. CAIN: Because of the substance of my ideas. When I talk to people and I talk to crowds and I get a response based upon how I describe the ideas, the 9-9-9's catching on. The fact that I've described the illegal immigration problem as four problems is catching on. The fact that we need to restructure Social Security, we can't keep just raising taxes and reducing benefits. The fact that I talk specific about how I would approach foreign policy. The fact that I believe in investing in our military, not continue to cut defense because the world is not safer. That's what's resonating with people and, that's why I don't think Herman Cain will be a flavor of the week.
MR. GREGORY: Can you chart a path to this nomination with the amount of money you have? You raised, in the third quarter, $2.6 million. Is that enough to go the distance?
MR. CAIN: It's not enough to go the distance but money is coming in. Here's what I've learned, David, and the polls show it: Message is more powerful than money. The 2.8 million that we reported, it didn't--what the report didn't say yet, it's in the report, no debt. And we have $1.3 million on hand as of the end of September. But, within the last two weeks, this is another thing that we've put out there, we've raised $2 million. So, in other words, our fundraising is now beginning to pick up.
MR. GREGORY: Why you and not Mitt Romney?
MR. CAIN: Why me and not Mitt Romney? Mitt Romney is a great businessman. I have a lot of respect for him. He has been more of a main--he has been more of a Wall Street executive. I have been more of a Main Street executive.
MR. GREGORY: That would be the dividing line. The debate continues. Mr. Cain, thank you very much.
MR. CAIN: David, thank you.
MR. GREGORY: And coming up, our look inside the road to the Republican nomination continues with a debate between two big name supporters of the GOP's top candidates. In Mitt Romney's corner, former presidential candidate and governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty. And for Rick Perry, the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal.
But first, when we come back, our Sunday Breakdown, the keys to victory for the Republican field and what's inside the president's re-election playbook. NBC's political director and White House correspondent Chuck Todd and the BBC's Katty Kay join us to break it all down.
MR. GREGORY: Coming up, our Sunday Breakdown, where we take a look inside the candidates' playbooks and get an up-close look at the White House re-election game plan. Joining me, NBC's Chuck Todd and the BBC's Katty Kay. They're up next after this brief commercial break.
MR. GREGORY: We're back now with what we're calling our Sunday Breakdown, joined by our chief White House correspondent and political director for NBC News Chuck Todd and Washington correspondent for the BBC and anchor of "BBC World News America" Katty Kay.
Welcome to both of you.
MR. CHUCK TODD: Good morning.
MR. GREGORY: The breakdown's about getting inside the numbers, getting inside the playbook here for victory. Let's start with numbers that matter, and that's fundraising in the third quarter. We'll put them up here on the screen. A big winner out of this is Rick Perry. He's up 17.2 million in the third quarter, plenty of cash on hand. Mitt Romney's strong. If you go a little bit farther down, we talked about Herman Cain, we spoke to Mr. Cain. His haul, pretty impressive as well, 2.6 million in the third quarter, that may not be as impressive, but you focused on what he said in the interview, Chuck.
MR. TODD: He said $2 million in the first two weeks. If he is raising a million dollars a week, that is top-tier campaign material, and if he can keep up--keep that up, then he can start actually looking like a top-tier candidate and building a top-tier organization.
MR. GREGORY: Rick Perry's been struggling, Katty Kay, but, again, you go back to that number...
MS. KATTY KAY: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: ...those are 15 million reasons that he can try to, you know, put a dent into Mitt Romney's campaign.
MS. KAY: Right. I always point to the fact that if people are giving him money, it's because they want him to get elected. And there are enough people giving him money who thinks--think he has a shot at this one. So if he can carry on raising money in those kind of numbers, keep on tapping into that conservative base of the country who think that he's their most viable candidate, then he's going to be able to go the distance on--in the primary.
MR. TODD: By the way, we haven't even brought up super PACs.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. TODD: And Rick Perry's got some friends who can write multimillion dollar checks to one entity that can just run negative ads all over.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Let's go to the playbook now and the keys to victory.
MR. TODD: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: And let's start with the man you just heard from, and that's Herman Cain. We'll put him up here on the screen.
And, Chuck, you take us through it.
MR. TODD: Well, number one, he's got to develop an organization. It doesn't--and there's--they seem--there seems to be evidence that he's doing that. He's acknowledging that he has to do that.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. TODD: That's always step one in--when one of these insurgent candidacies move up. He's got to capitalize on what I call--he's got the best elevator pitch resume of the field: businessman, former CEO, not an elected official. That's what's resonating, and he's got to keep that going.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. TODD: And then he's got to defend this 9-9-9 tax plan. It's gotten plenty of play, but suddenly you go underneath the hood and it's not hanging out so well.
MR. GREGORY: And, Katty, he says in our interview today, taxes are going to go up for some people, something he has not acknowledged before. This is going to make the, the debate in Washington even harder for him should he become president and actually proposes.
MS. KAY: Right. And I'm not sure from that interview that a lot of people are going to come away fully clear about what the 9-9-9 tax plan means for them individually because he didn't answer this issue about state taxes and whether they would be kept alongside his 9-9-9 plan.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
MS. KAY: But I--I'd take a step back and say the thing that Herman Cain has to do is kind of, no offense, he's got to get more people to believe he can be the nominee. I mean, he still has a little bit of this sense of being the curiosity of the month.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Let's go to Romney and the keys to victory here. I'll go through them this time: We're going to play the waiting game, maintain the campaign war chest, gain acceptance among the base, emphasize the business credentials.
MR. TODD: You know, when you look at our NBC/Wall Street Journal number, his support is the quintessential mile wide and an inch deep even among those who are with him. He's got the support of people that aren't paying attention. That's a big red flag if I were him. He's going to have to be going up on air soon, probably with some positive ads, emphasizing this business thing. You know, if you've noticed, he is a noun, verb and private sector experience, right? He talks about it all the time. Why? It's for the same reason Herman Cain's resonating. That's what the base of the Republican Party wants.
MR. GREGORY: And, Katty Kay, look at this poll from our survey this week that's very interesting. What's more important in selecting a candidate? Electability, only 31 percent; closest to your views, 67 percent. He's still got seal the deal with conservatives that he is one.
MS. KAY: It's going to be hard for him to do that. His campaign believes that these numbers will change as we get closer to a general election, if he's the nominee, that in the end, the conservative base will turn out for him, they will rally around him. In the short-term, though, I'd add one more key to victory, he's got to keep that not-Romney vote split for as long as possible.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MS. KAY: He needs to have as many people out there vying for the conservative section of the party while he carries on doing kind of what he's just been doing.
MR. GREGORY: Let me get to Perry, Chuck.
MR. TODD: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: If you look at the keys to victory for him, boy, they're pretty basic.
MR. TODD: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: Find his voice, rally and energize conservatives, and sharpen the message. He's got to steady himself.
MR. TODD: Charlie Cook's put it really well. This is Rick Perry's nomination to win. The Republican Party looks like him. It is who he is. His conservative ideology, it is represented by Rick Perry and yet he can't seem to capitalize on it. The irony is, if Mitt Romney had had half the blunders that Rick Perry has had...
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. TODD: ...he'd have been driven out of the race. It just shows you how conservative the party is. They--they're yearning for this alternative, and him--they're giving him every chance he, he can take.
MR. GREGORY: Quickly, from both of you, Katty, you first, the game plan right now then for the president.
MS. KAY: The game plan for the president is to make this a choice between Obama and whatever the Republican nominee is and to remind Americans that it was Republican economic policies that got us into the financial crisis, and if a Republican is elected to the White House, they will implement those same policies that got us into this mess.
MR. GREGORY: I talked to advisers in the White House who say they want to win on who's got the vision for the future for the economy. They think Republicans--they can persuade Americans Republicans will take the country back.
MR. TODD: Yes, but let's talk about this short-term strategically.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
MR. TODD: They want to prolong this Republican nomination. The last thing they want is Mitt Romney to win this quickly. They're going to do what they can to help Rick Perry attack Mick***(as spoken)***Romney in any way they can. But don't be surprised if you start seeing some stuff that doesn't make a lot of sense for the Democratic campaign to be saying, but it's a way of trying to goose Perry to say, `Hey, look, attack Romney this way in the primaries,' because they want to prolong the race.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm. The Sunday Breakdown. More of this to come. Thank you both very much.
MR. TODD: All right.
MR. GREGORY: Coming up here, a special Decision 2012 GOP debate. More on this on the campaign and the issues. Mitt Romney vs. Rick Perry. With us, top supporters from each camp. Joining us for Team Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Can his candidate, Rick Perry, overcome his plunge in the polls? And for team Romney, former Minnesota governor and former presidential candidate himself Tim Pawlenty. Can Romney persuade conservatives to rally around his candidacy? Our special 2012 debate is coming up next.
MR. GREGORY: We are back this morning to continue our inside look at the fight for the Republican nomination. With us, top surrogates now for the Romney and Perry campaigns making their first joint appearance in this race. For team Romney, the former Republican governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty, who until mid-August was a candidate for president himself. And for team Perry, Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, who endorsed Governor Perry of his neighboring state of Texas last month.
Welcome to both of you.
Governor Pawlenty, I have to ask you, any regrets about getting out of the Republican race?
FMR. GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R-MN): No, I have no regrets. We took it as far as we could and, for me, that meant we had to fold up the tent. But I'm really excited and honored to be supporting Mitt Romney. The number one issue in this race is going to be who can get this economy going and jobs growing...
MR. GREGORY: Right. But you did say...
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: ...and he is the best candidate to do that by far.
MR. GREGORY: You did say recently that, you know, the decision you made after Iowa was perhaps premature. As you look at the complexion of this race now, do you think you could have stayed in and been a contender?
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, that was in reference to some tactical decisions we had made during the campaign, not the decision to get out and certainly not the decision to support Mitt.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Let's talk about negatives on both sides because these are negatives that have to be dealt with and overcome at this stage of the race. You heard from Herman Cain who's now, according to our survey, on top of the polls at the moment. And for team Romney, for Governor Romney, this issue of consistency. Whether he's flip-flopped on views as something that the White House is taking a careful look at. David Axelrod, who is senior strategist to President Obama said this during a conference call this week.
(Audiotape, conference call with reporters Wednesday)
MR. DAVID AXELROD: Across the political spectrum, people have the same question: If you , if you are willing to change positions on fundamental issues of principle, how can we know what you would do as president? How can we trust who you would be?"
MR. GREGORY: Governor Jindal, what's exhibit A there against Romney?
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R-LA): Well, look, I, I, I believe Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment. I'm not here to attack a fellow Republican. The reality is if--whoever's the nominee I'm going to support vs. President Obama. The reason I'm supporting Rick Perry, he's been a consistent conservative, great track record in Texas last two years, helped to create nearly half the jobs created in this country, consistently fought excessive government spending, fought to cut taxes in Texas. I think Tim's right, the number one issue in this election's about the jobs and the economy. Under President Obama, we've lost two million jobs. Under President Obama, national debt's nearly $15 trillion. Stimulus one didn't work, now he's back with stimulus part two, nearly $500 billion, you know, like $450 billion more spending.
MR. GREGORY: All right. We'll get to, we'll get to the views on the economy in just a second.
Governor Pawlenty, you don't have the advantage of being able to stick to the 11th commandment because you've been on this program before, and we save tapes around here. One of the big issues is about health care, of course, and the fact that the healthcare plan in Massachusetts was, in fact, the model for what the president pursued for healthcare reform. I asked you about that here in July.
(Videotape, July 10, 2011)
MR. GREGORY: Are you saying he cannot be the nominee, unelectable as, as the nominee of the party because of his position on health care?
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: I think if you're going to prosecute the political case against President Obama in one of the top three or four issues that's going to be the direction of the country in health care, it's going to be very difficult for our nominee to be one of the co-conspirators and co-designers...
MR. GREGORY: I know, that's the argument. I'm asking you what your conclusion is.
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: It's going to be very difficult for him to be successful with that on his record.
MR. GREGORY: Your criticism of the man you now endorse is borne out in our pore--poll, rather. Forty-three percent of those surveyed of conservatives say that the healthcare law is a big liability for them in their minds about Governor Romney.
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, you started this line of question, David, about consistency. And David Axelrod comes out and talks about consistency, you know, no--President Obama gets before the country and says he's going to cut the deficit in half and then doesn't and has a whole list of broken promises. So we'll be happy to debate that with him at the appropriate time.
But, as to Governor Romney and health care, I've spent a lot of time with Governor Romney and looked him eyeball-to-eyeball, we know each other, and I trust him. And he's told me unequivocally, as he has the nation, he is 100 percent committed to repealing Obamacare and will take the first steps in that regard on his very first day in office.
MR. GREGORY: But your point here was...
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: So he's assured me of that.
MR. GREGORY: ...it would be very difficult for him to be successful with that record. You've worked through that criticism or belief?
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: Absolutely. And he's put on a virtual clinic at these debates. We're going to have to have a candidate who can successfully debate Barack Obama. Mitt Romney has gotten A grades across the board in every debate that he's been in on this issue, people attacking him on it, and others. He actually, I think, is the strongest candidate on--relative to President Obama, because of his skills, his knowledge, his capability, and his electability on this issue and others.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about Governor Perry. You've endorsed him. He came into this campaign with great expectations, and we've seen a pretty stunning fall in the polls. The debate performances have not helped. His own wife, Anita Perry, spoke this week about how difficult it's been.
MS. ANITA PERRY: ...we have been brutalized and eaten up and chewed up in the press.
MR. GREGORY: And she went on to say brutalized by GOP rivals. What's gone wrong here for him?
GOV. JINDAL: Well, a couple of things. Presidential campaigns are tough. The good thing is I know Rick and Anita well. I know they're up to this, that he's been governor of Texas for nearly 11 years now. During that time, they've surpassed New York to become the second-largest economy. Let me tell you one of the reasons I'm, I'm endorsing Rick.
I've been--as governor of a neighboring state, we've worked together through crises, through economic recessions, we've competed with each other for jobs. Let me tell you just a quick story after Gustav. We were down in New Orleans, the...(unintelligible)...the federal government didn't--they promised didn't arrive in time. We had to evacuate patients out of harm's way immediately. We called for help. Literally, the airspace was about to be closed. The first seven planes that came, came from the Texas Air National Guard. Rick Perry's made tough decisions in crises. He's made emergency, he's made executive level decisions. I know his heart. He is, he is a leader. We now have a president who's a great speaker. We don't need just a great debater or a great speaker. We need somebody with executive branch experience. Rick Perry's got that.
MR. GREGORY: But there's, there's got to be some reason to explain his inability to get this message out that Governor Jindal's talking about. How do you see it?
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, I think when you're running for president, you need somebody who's going to make sure that they have the steadiness, the, the confidence, the knowledge, the capability to deliver every time. You see in Mitt Romney that kind of steady, consistent, strong conservative performance. And I think people are looking at these debates and his other appearances and saying...
MR. GREGORY: So what is the distinction then? What's the distinction then between Governor Romney and Governor Perry?
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, there's a number of distinctions. Each candidate has their own background, their own story, their own style, their own tempo, their own views in the way that they present themselves.
MR. GREGORY: But this is...(unintelligible)...governor.
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: No, but I think...
MR. GREGORY: I mean, you know, your guys want to win the nomination here, and there's 15 million bucks that Governor Perry's going to start throwing at Governor Romney.
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: David, I think--here's the bottom line.
MR. GREGORY: So what's the distinction?
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: I think the bottom line is, Republicans are watching these debates, the country is watching this unfold and they're looking at Mitt Romney and they're saying, `That's a person who can be president and do the job.'
MR. GREGORY: There's actually--Governor Christie who endorsed Mitt Romney, seemed to have quite a slap at Rick Perry when he endorsed him this week. And I want to play that sound and have your reaction to it.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ): The biggest reason why I want to support Governor Romney is because I believe he's the best person to be able to articulate Republican values and defeat Barack Obama in November of 2012. ... This is not someone who just is deciding to run for president off the back of an envelope, who just wandered into it and said, "Hey, this seems like a good idea, let's see how it goes." This is somebody who has thought and listened and planned for a good long period of time about what he would do if he was given the honor of being president of the United States and the responsibility of being president of the United States.
MR. GREGORY: Is that an issue here for Governor Perry? He made a decision to get in, he's got tremendous experience, governor of Texas and as a campaigner; and yet, he doesn't seem to quite have it together in terms of a message, his voice, his performance when it comes to running of the White House.
GOV. JINDAL: Look, I think this is going to be a long campaign. There'll be plenty of speeches, debates. There'll be polls going up and down. The most important thing Rick has is his track record. He's cut taxes 65 times, $14 billion in the state of Texas, one of the five lowest tax states, according to the Tax Foundation. Club for Growth says one of the best states when it comes to regulatory environment. The reality is seven years in a row, CEO magazine, says it's the business-friendliest state. You've got a state where he can show what he has done during tough times, during good times, to bring in jobs.
First governor in Texas history to cut general government spending since World War II. He, he has done all of that while tackling tort reform, creating jobs. I think that what the American people, Republican primary voters are looking for is not necessarily the slickest debater, the best speaker. What they're looking for is a proven track record. We've got a president we elected who hadn't run anything other than his campaign before he got elected president of the United States. I think he is in way over his head. As a result, we have seen the, the unemployment has gone up, America's competitive ranking has gone down. We used to be number one, now we're number five in the world. We've seen our credit rating downgraded for the first time. So I think voters are going to look past a couple of debates, I think they're going to look past a couple of polls, I think they're going to look past a couple of speeches. What they're going to say is who's got the track record, who's got the executive branch experience. Rick Perry's got that.
MR. GREGORY: You know, there's this issue of--in fact, Governor Romney, like Governor Huntsman is a Mormon. This has become an issue in the campaign here recently. Pastor Robert Jeffress introduced Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit, and he said the following:
(Videotape, October 7, 2011)
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS: Do we want a candidate who is a good moral person, or do we want a candidate who is a born again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Mitt Romney is a good moral person, but he is not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered, historically, to be a cult by evangelical Christians.
MR. GREGORY: Has Governor Perry satisfactorily distanced himself from this pastor in Governor Romney's mind?
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, in my view, David, it's disappointing that Governor Perry and others didn't denounce Pastor Jeffress in those comments more directly. We have a country where we don't have prohibitions on a particular church attendance for public office. In fact, it's prohibited in the U.S. Constitution. And if the measure is what kind of person are you, when you look at Mitt Romney and how he conducts himself as a loving husband, as a loving grandfather, as a--somebody who's completely committed to this country, his patriotism, the way he conducts himself personally, those are the kinds of values that I'm--as, as an evangelical Christian, I'm proud to stand next to him and say these are the kinds of values in a person, in terms of his personal conduct and values that the country needs in a leader.
MR. GREGORY: But, Governor Jindal, are you disappointed with Governor Perry? Have you told him that he should more formally denounce this pastor?
GOV. JINDAL: Look, I don't think it's for any of us to judge somebody else's religious views, their relationship with God. The Bible's very clear, that's up to God, not up to us. I have some experience with this, by the way. Last time I ran for office, the Democratic Party in Louisiana attacked me for my faith, which I thought was ridiculous.
MR. GREGORY: So why not call on Perry to denounce this very strongly?
GOV. JINDAL: It did give me a chance to explain my Christian beliefs to Louisiana voters. Look, the bottom line is, it's not for any of us to judge somebody's faith, their relationship to God. I think that'd be inappropriate. I think the Bible's very clear, that's not our role.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Let me get a break in here. We'll take a quick break. We'll be back with our Trends and Takeaways, a look at what was said here today and what to look for in the coming week. What are, as well, the hot political stories trending this very morning. That's right after this.
MR. GREGORY: We're back here. We want to take a look at the trend tracker, the political stories that are trending this very morning. And we go to our big screen. The GOP money race is right on top there as we've seen those third quarter totals come in for the top-tier candidates, including Herman Cain, who you heard from earlier today. And Herman Cain is number two. Number three, Bachmann basts--blasts Perry on immigration.
Quickly, Governor Pawlenty, is this a huge liability for Governor Perry as he moves forward?
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: Well, the immigration issue is going to be a significant issue. It's not as important as the jobs issue, but it's, it's a top-tier issue.
MR. GREGORY: Yeah.
FMR. GOV. PAWLENTY: And Governor Perry's got some exposure, as we all know, on that issue.
MR. GREGORY: All right. Let's talk about the week ahead. Couple of interesting events. We've been talking about debates. Tuesday, another debate in Nevada will have the candidates together. And on Thursday, pay attention to this, Romney returns to Iowa. The question is, will he make a play there for Iowa? It's going to be very interesting to see.
I want to thank you both. And speaking of upcoming campaign events, some news to share this morning about our upcoming New Hampshire debate that we are co-hosting with Facebook. We are pleased to add the New Hampshire Union Leader now as a local partner on the debate, which will be held the Sunday prior to the New Hampshire primary. When is that going to be? We don't know. We're waiting to find out.
And before we go, be sure to check out our special Press Pass conversation this week about why the debates matter. I spoke to the veteran moderator of so many presidential debates, Jim Lehrer, about the defining moments and some of the behind-the-scenes fallout from these debates. Plus, we got the inside story on debate prep and strategies from two experienced campaign pros, Ron Klain and Kevin Madden, a fascinating discussion. You can watch it online at presspass.msnbc.com.
That is all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.