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Mitt Romney vs. Not Mitt Cain, Perry, Bachmann......

 If the Republican presidential race were a logic problem, there would be just two candidates:

1)      Mitt Romney

2)      Not Mitt Romney 

And that’s bad news for…. Herman Cain.

Ask Rick Perry. And before him, Michele Bachmann. Each candidate once held the Not Mitt Romney mantle — that is, a reasonable claim to near-frontrunner status — only to wind up at the back of the pack.

After Tuesday night’s verbal brawl of a debate in Las Vegas, it’s a good bet that Cain could meet a similar fate. Perry could rise after a stronger-than-usual performance in which he savaged Romney hiring a home lawn service that employed illegal immigrants.

The attack flustered the normally unflappable Romney. The sharp exchange dominated Twitter, blogs and the after-action talk of the pundits. And that robbed Cain of some of the spotlight.

Heading into the debate, Cain was fighting a rearguard action over his “9-9-9” plan that would cut corporate and personal income tax rates to 9 percent while raising a first-ever national sales tax of 9 percent. 

Business groups and other Republicans have called the sales tax a job killer. An independent study shows that the plan would give millionaires a savings of at least $455,000, while raising tax expenditures for poor and middle-income people who would have to pay the new national sales tax on top of state sales taxes.

Cain said critics were confused about his plan, mixing up “apples and oranges.”

Analysis here