LAS VEGAS -- Republican presidential contenders attacked Herman Cain's economic plan last night as a tax increase waiting to happen, moving swiftly in campaign debate to blunt the former businessman's unlikely rise in the race for the party's nomination.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum wasn't nearly as gentle, citing one analysis that found taxes would go up for 84 percent of households under Cain's proposal. "We're talking about major increases in taxes," he said, adding that a single person and a couple with children with the same income would pay the same tax.
Cain insisted the charges were untrue. He said he was being criticized because lobbyists, accountants and others "want to continue to be able to manipulate the American people with a 10-million-word mess," the current tax code.
His proposal is for a 9 percent personal income tax, a 9 percent corporate tax and a 9 percent national sales tax.
The former pizza company executive is the latest and unlikeliest phenomenon in the race to pick a rival for President Barack Obama. A black man in a party that draws few votes from blacks, he had bumped along with little notice as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney sought to fend off one fast-rising rival after another.
That all changed after Texas Gov. Rick Perry burst into the race and then struggled. However unlikely Cain's rise, last night's debate made clear that none of his rivals is willing to let him go unchallenged.
"I love you, brother, but let me tell you something, you don't have to pay a big analysis to figure this out," Perry said to Cain. "Go to New Hampshire where they don't have an income tax and they don't have any interest in one," he said.
Romney, in a conference call with supporters before the debate, also criticized Cain. "Most people in middle income categories will have their taxes go up" under that plan, Romney said.