Nightly News   |  October 25, 2011

Perry introduces his own flat tax plan

Rick Perry, who just introduced an optional 20 percent flat tax, has taken a beating in favorability in recent weeks. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell has more.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Texas Governor Rick Perry is making some serious arguments about the economy, federal budge and taxes today. But as NBC 's Andrea Mitchell tells us, a problem developed for the campaign when he got a bit in his own way and veered off topic.

ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: In South Carolina today, Rick Perry tried to reboot his flagging campaign by keeping it simple.

Governor RICK PERRY: This is the size of what we're talking about right here. Taxpayers will be able to fill this out and file their taxes on that.

MITCHELL: His big idea an optional flat tax , 20 percent for individuals and corporations. Critics say dramatically reducing the tax burden for the wealthy and the size of government. Perry would cut federal spending to 18 percent of the overall economy, a trillion dollars a year less than current spending. How would he do it?

Gov. PERRY: For instance, you can take the secondary and elementary Department of Education programs that are in DC today, cut them in half, and that'll save you $25 billion in one year.

MITCHELL: Herman Cain catapulted to first place with his 9-9-9 flat tax at the same time Perry was plummeting, down to only 6 percent in today's New York Times-CBS poll, trailing way behind Cain at 25 percent and Mitt Romney at 21 percent.

MITCHELL: But while hoping to sell his flat tax and revive his campaign today, Perry stepped on his own message, instead reviving, of all things, the birther controversy. First Perry told Parade magazine , "I don't have a definitive answer" about President Obama 's birth certificate. On Fox , Karl Rove said Perry had gone off the tracks.

Mr. KARL ROVE: Look, you associate yourself with a nutty view like that and you damage yourself.

MITCHELL: When given a chance to back down by CNBC 's John Harwood , Perry didn't.

Gov. PERRY: It's a good issue to keep alive. I'm really not worried about the president's birth certificate. It's fun to poke at him a little bit.

MITCHELL: And for sheer weirdness in the campaign today, Herman Cain 's campaign put out this Web ad with his chief of staff lighting up.

MITCHELL: Perry now says that the birther issue is a distraction, but some suggest he was trying to give a wink and a nod to the most fervent Obama opponents. If so, that could backfire by undermining Perry 's attempt to prove he's a serious candidate. Brian :

WILLIAMS: And it's still going to be a long political season. Andrea Mitchell in our DC newsroom tonight. Andrea , thanks. When