Nightly News   |  October 16, 2011

Cain under the microscope

The newest frontrunner in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Herman Cain, is coming under fresh scrutiny for his policies on Iraq, abortion and his 9-9-9 economic plan. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.

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LESTER HOLT, anchor: And as we turn now to presidential politics, Herman Cain faced some tough new questioning today on his policies including his 9-9-9 tax plan, the war in Iraq and abortion. NBC 's Kristen Welker reports.

KRISTEN WELKER reporting: Under the strongest microscope yet, newly minted GOP front-runner Herman Cain appeared on NBC 's " Meet the Press " and acknowledged that his controversial revenue plan would increase taxes on some Americans.

Mr. HERMAN CAIN: That's right . Some people will pay more, but most people will pay less is my argument.

Mr. DAVID 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.

WELKER: But he went on to say his plan would not raise taxes for the poor and middle class.

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 got more state taxes.

Mr. CAIN: No, you don't.

Mr. GREGORY: How so? You're not saying they're going away.

Mr. CAIN: David , your state taxes are the same. Your federal taxes in most cases are going to go down.

WELKER: And when the conversation turned to Iraq , Cain drew a stark contrast with President Obama .

Mr. CAIN: I don't agree with the president's approach to draw down 40,000 troops.

Mr. GREGORY: 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.

WELKER: Today Cain said he was opposed to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, called Clarence Thomas an ideal Supreme Court justice and explained why his wife is not on the campaign trail with him.

Mr. CAIN: 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 . Good to see you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

WELKER: Cain is the latest contender to reach the top slot in a volatile Republican field. The question is, will he burn out under this new national spotlight.

Mr. MARK MURRAY (NBC News Deputy Political Director): And the question is, can he end up surviving the scrutiny? And if he does he will remain that front-runner at least among conservatives.

WELKER: Now, Cain says he also has about a million dollars on hand. That amount is dwarfed by Mitt Romney and Rick Perry . Political analysts say the reality is if he wants to remain a serious contender, he will have to start

raising more money soon. Lester: Kristen Welker at the White House tonight, thank you.