Businessman Herman Cain's name recognition is surging, and he currently vies for first place in the Republican presidential race, but his signature 9-9-9 tax reform plan divides local Republican activists in the early caucus and primary states.
The latest Power Outsiders survey conducted by The Huffington Post and Patch finds more support for (44 percent) than opposition to (36 percent) Cain's 9-9-9 plan among the influential local Republicans we surveyed. But just as important, one in five (20 percent) were uncertain, and relatively few had strong feelings about it either way (13 percent were strongly in favor, 11 percent strongly opposed).
The weekly HuffPost-Patch GOP Power Outsiders poll reaches out to political activists, party officials and officeholders in the early primary and caucus states to listen in on the critical "invisible primary" among party insiders that typically drives the outcome of nomination campaigns. While our Republican respondents are outsiders from the perspective of Washington, D.C., they are insiders within their local communities. This week, we heard from 166 Power Outsiders, including 42 in Iowa, 50 in New Hampshire, 60 in South Carolina and, for the first time, 14 in Florida.
Our previous survey found that these influential Republicans are impressed with Cain's story of success and his strong advocacy of conservative issues. Nine out of 10 (92 percent) said that Cain takes stands on issues they agree with (and 54 percent felt strongly about it).
Yet when we asked about Cain's most well-known policy position, the Power Outsiders were not nearly as enthusiastic. Again, while a 44-to-36 percent plurality supported his signature 9-9-9 plan, only 13 percent were strongly supportive.
The plan drew more opposition in New Hampshire. Our New Hampshire respondents opposed the 9-9-9 plan by a 35-to-46 percent margin, with 17 percent strongly opposed and only 4 percent strongly in favor. In their comments, several specifically said that New Hampshire's famously anti-tax voters "will never allow a sales tax."
While intrigued by the simplicity of 9-9-9, respondents in all four early primary and caucus states had doubts about the details. We asked the Power Outsiders to share their impression of the plan in just one word, and "interesting," "simplistic" and "simple" led the list, garnering 22 percent of the total mentions.
In describing the plan, only slightly more used positive words (42 percent) than negative words (36 percent). The most frequently mentioned positive terms were "simple," "catchy," "bold" and "understandable."
The most frequently used negative words were "simplistic," "unrealistic," "questionable," "naive" and "gimmick."
These activist Republicans may be having trouble deciding what to make of Cain's plan, as indicated by the subtle difference between "simple" and "simplistic." We found, for example, that 10 of the 13 respondents who described the plan as "simple" supported it (with the other three unsure), but among those who used the word "simplistic," seven of 10 are opposed (with just two in favor and one unsure).
The same strain is apparent in more detailed comments. Even among those strongly in favor of the plan, many shared the fear that "Congress will never pass it." And even among those opposed to the plan, many gave Cain credit for a "catchy phrase" and for the effort "to simplify the tax code."
The 9-9-9 plan has been a critical part of Cain's ascent, but as influential local Republicans chew over the specifics, Cain may discover, in the words of Rep. Michele Bachmann's debate attack, "the devil is in the details."
The HuffPost-Patch Power Outsiders
Our surveys are not a scientific random sample of any larger population but rather an effort to listen to a swath of influential, local Republican activists, party leaders and elected officials in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. All of the individuals listed below have agreed to participate in the surveys, although not all responded to this week's questions. This week's interviews were conducted between Oct. 14 and 18, 2011.
Robert Brownell (Polk County supervisor), Irene Chalmers-Neubauer (Republican precinct captain), Andy Christenson (local citizen activist), Mike St. Clair (Lobbyist), Arleigh Clemens (Co-Chair Johnson County Republicans), Creighton Cox (Local politician, council candidate), Jeremy Davis (Councilman), Tyler DeHaan (IT Services), Debra Derksen (PR person for Johnson County GOP), Paula Dierenfeld (Mayor, active Republican), Mike Elam (Organizer, Dallas County GOP), Paul Fell (Santorum supporter), Amanda Freel (State House Repub Staff), Steve Gaer (West Des Moines mayor), Natalie Ginty (Chairwoman, Iowa Federation of College Republicans), Rick Hermann (Sales Manager, WeatherTech Automotive), Libby Jacobs (former state representative), William Keettel (Former head, Johnson County Republicans), Kevin Koester (Congressman), Mary Kramer (former state senator), Marilyn Krocheski, Jon McAvoy (Head of Dallas County Republicans), Isaiah McGee (Owner, McGee strategies), Chris McLinden (Axis Human Capital, Businessman), Cynthia Michel (Precinct Captain), Mike Nolan (Republican Party noteable), Jim Sandager (West Des Moines city councilman), Rick Sanders (Republican Supervisor), Charles Schneider (West Des Moines city councilman), Chad Steenhoek (Member, Strong America Now), Wade Steenhoek (Ankeny City Council), Ronald Stenstrom (Romney Supporter), Karen Svede (Former statewide candidate), Rob Taylor (Running for Iowa House Seat), Deb Thornton (Worked in Republican administrations), Robert Wennerholm (Precinct Captain), Eric Woolson (Republican strategist), Randy Yontz (Director Leadership Institute)
Eric Anderson (Former State Rep/Chair Bow Board of Selectmen), Gary Azarian (State Rep.), David Bates (Rep- Windham), Kathy Benuck (BCTV Host/Blogger), D.J. Bettencourt (State Rep., Maj. Leader), Diane Bitter (Rye Republican activist), Travis Blais (Windham GOP Chair), Bill Boyd (Town Councilor), Bruce Breton (Selectman), Russell Bridle (Former Hampton Fire Department captain/State Rep.), Ed Brooks (Former ME selectman, town councilor), Chris Buck (Republican activist), Chris Buda (Merrimack GOP Chair), Jamie Burnett (Consultant), John Cebrowski (State Rep. - Bedford), Chris Christiansen (State Rep), Mark Cookson (Alderman-at-large), Tim Copeland (State rep.), Jim Costello (American Government teacher), Juanita Dangel (Secretary Hillsborough County GOP), Gary Daniels (State Rep), Ed Declercq (Planning Board), Jerry Delemus (Republican activist), Shari Demers (Activist), Julie DiCarlo (Small business owner), Ron DiCarlo (Small business owner), Bob Duffy (Nashua GOP City Committee), Bob Elliott (State Rep.), Gary Ellmer (Chairman, Porsmouth Republican Committee), Frank Ferraro (Exeter Selectman), Laura Foote (Activist), Mauri Foster (Retired), Sheila Francoeur (Seacoast Republican Women member), Michael Gallagher (Nashua Republican City Committee, running for Alderman), Bianca Garcia (Former Salem GOP Victory Office mgr), David Garcia (Salem Town GOP Chair), John Graham (State Rep. - Bedford), Brian Griset (Member of local political committee), Lisa Hansen (Romney supporter), Peter Hansen (State Rep), Pat Hargreaves (Selectman), Jeff Hatch (Salem Romney Town Chair), Ken Hawkins (State Rep - Bedford), Dan St. Hilaire (Executive councilor), Dick Hinch (Current State Rep), Jennifer Horn (Republican activist), David Hurst (New Hampshire Young Republicans chairman), Zac Johnson (Technical writer), Ken Jones (Member of Amherst Republicans), Gary Krupp (Member of the School Budget Committee), Michael Lambert (Resident), Steve Landry (Small business owner), Tom Linehan (GOP Activist), Eduardo Lopez-Reyes (Software engineer), Marie Lopez-Reyes (Sales), Di Lothrop (Nashua GOP City Committee), Stephen E. Ludwick (Chairman, Supervisors of the Checklist, Ward 9), Jim Luther (State Senator), John Lyons (Lawyer), Kris MacNeil (Former State Senate candidate), Joel Maiola (Former Judd Gregg Chief of Staff), Andrew Manuse (State Rep - Derry), George Markwell (School Board Member), Harry McClard (Freelance writer), Patrick McDougall (Budget Committee), Charles McMahon (Rep- Windham), Bill Modis (Vice Chair of Amherst Republicans), Maureen Mooney (Past State Rep), Keith Murphy (State Rep - Bedford), Tasha Olsen (Republican activist), Rick Paige (Loan officer), Michele Peckham (State Rep. (N. Hampton)), Amy Perkins (State Rep. (Seabrook)), Lawrence Perkins (State Rep. (Seabrook)), Kathryn Peterson (community activist), Lenette Peterson (State Rep), Pam Price (former state rep), Lee Quandt (State rep.), Matt Quandt (Exeter Selectman/State Rep.), Tom Rath (Consultant), Fred Rice (State Rep. (Hampton)), Jim Rubens (Former Republican State Sen.), Pete Silva (Rep - Nashua), William Smith (Conservative Blogger), Brandon Stauber (Small business owner/recent Exeter transplant), Kathy Stroud (State Rep), Chris Tremblay (Activist), Pam Tucker (Deputy House Speaker), Mark Vincent (Chair of Amherst Republicans), Jim Waddell (State Rep. (Hampton)), Tom Walker (Conservative Republican), Robert Washburn (Former City Councilor), Kevin Waterhouse (Rep- Windham), Raymond White (State Sen. - Bedford), Alan Williams (North Hampton resident, former Exeter selectman), J. Christopher Williams (Pres. Nashua CC), Tony Zore (Tea Party member)
Aubry Alexander (Charleston City Council - District 9), Thomas Alexander (State Senator), Dean Allen (Tea Party Activist), Charm Altman (President Sea Island Republican Women), Patrick L. Arnold (Campaign and fundraising consultant), Todd Atwater (S.C. Rep. Dist. 87), Rep. Nathan Ballentine (SC House Dist. 71), Bob Barnwell (Richland Co. GOP Spring Valley), Joseph Bates, Jr. (Committeeman/ Richland Co. GOP Dutch Fork), Eric Bedingfield (State Rep/Congressional Staffer), Lin Bennett (Chair, Charleston County GOP), Rich Bolen (Chair, Lexington County GOP), Andrew Boucher (Business consultant and political advisor), Phillip Bowers (Chairman, Pickens County Republican Party), Dan Bracken (President/ The Auction Co. & Real Estate Inc.), Edward Britt (Engineer), Joe Bustos (Former town councilman), Jay Byars (Dorchester County councilman), Bob Call (Berkeley County Councilman), Tim Callanan (Berkeley County GOP Chairman), Mike Campbell (Son of former Gov. Carroll Campbell; co-chairman of Huntsman's S.C. effort), Ed Carter (Small business owner), M. Todd Cullum (Lexington County Council member), Rep. Joe Daning (Statehouse rep.), Smokey Davis (Lexington County Council member), Carroll S. Duncan (Dorchester GOP Chair), Dana Eiser (Lowcountry 9.12 president), Linda Eiser (9/12 conservative), Linda Estep (wife of Pastor at First Baptist Church of Columbia), Scott Farmer (Richland County GOP Committeeman), Chip Felkel (Political Consultant), Will Folks (Editor, fitsnews.com; spokesman for former Gov. Mark Sanford), Leland Glen (Author), Chris Godbey (Political Consultant), Susan Grady (Republican activist), Randy Halfacre (Mayor of Lexington), Dan Hamilton (State Representative), Carla Hardee (President, Dutch Fork Chapter of the S.C. Federation of Republican Women), Larry Hargett (Dorchester County Council chairman), Val Hutchinson (Richland County Council), Johnny Jeffcoat (Town of Lexington Economic and Community Catalyst; Lexington County Council member), Jim Jerow (Georgetown GOP Chair), Debbie Jones (9.12 Board Member), Joanne Jones (Republican activist), Grayson Kelly (Fundraiser), James Kinard (Banker, Chair, Lexington County Council), Todd Kincannon (Lawyer/former executive director of SC Republican Party), Bob Kouvolo (President/ MaxPt), Mickey Lindler (Chairwoman for Republicans of Lexington and Richland Counties), Chris Mann (City Councilman), Karen Martin (Organizer/Spartanburg Tea Party), Larry Martin (State Senator), Taft Matney (Conservative Political Consultant), James Metts (Lexington County Sheriff), Matt Moore (Executive Director for SC GOP), Susan Morris (Nonprofit executive director), Mike Murphee (Charleston Tea Party chairman), Brent Nelsen (Professor of Political Science/former candidate for Supt. of Education), Don Nye (Bank employee), Allen Olson (Chairman / Columbia TEA Party), Randy Page (President,South Carolinians for Responsible Government), Gregory Pearce (Richland Co. Councilman), Kathy Perry (Charleston County Republican Women), Adam Piper (SC GOP 3rd Vice Chairman & political director for Huntsman campaign), Zach Pippin (GOP Media Consultant), Tony Pope (Insurance agent), Barbara Pulicicchio (Political activist), Rick Quinn (S.C. Rep. Dist. 69), Dennis Raines (Mayoral Candidate), Jeff Reuer (Vice Chair Goose Creek 9-12), DeLinda Ridings (SC GOP State Secretary / Huntsman campaign), Robby Robbins (Lawyer), Emily Rudolph (Sea Island Republican Women), LaDonna Ryggs (Spartanburg GOP Chair), Michael Sally (Hanahan City Councilman), Dennis Saylor (Chair, Aiken GOP), Bill Severns (Rep. for Beaufort Republican Men), Katrina Shealy (Candidate for SC Senate from Lexington), Lanneau Siegling (State Executive Committeeman), Billy Simons (Conservative activist), Garry Smith (State Rep), Bill Banning, Sr. (Vice-chair, Lexington County Council), John Steinberger (Fair Tax activist), Mary Ann Taylor (Charleston County Republican Women/Charleston County School Board), MacLain R. Mac Toole (S.C. Rep., Dist. 88), Frank Townsend (Lexington County Council member), September Wellborn (State GOP Delegate), Knox White (Mayor of Greenville), Jennifer Willis (County Councilwoman/ V.P. One Tree Hill), Henry Wilson (2011 delegate, S.C. Republican Convention), James David Woodard (Professor of Political Science, Clemson University), Cheryl Woods-Flowers (Former mayor, Republican official)