GOP candidates pile on Herman Cain in testy Las Vegas debate

LAS VEGAS — The GOP presidential candidates wasted no time assailing Herman Cain’s economic plan en masse at Tuesday’s debate, going straight for his signature 9-9-9 plan right out of the gate.

Every single candidate, starting with Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannBachmann won't run for Franken's Senate seat because she did not hear a 'call from God' Billboard from ‘God’ tells Michele Bachmann not to run for Senate Pawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota MORE and continuing down the line, used their first chance to speak to argue Cain’s tax plan is poorly considered, regressive and dangerous.

Cain’s would set federal income and corporate taxes at 9 percent and create a new 9 percent national sales tax.

“One thing I know about being a member of Congress for five years is any time you give Congress a brand new tax, it doesn’t go away,” Bachmann said in the debate sponsored by CNN.

Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Perry quickly followed suit, getting the night off to a contensious start.

But it was Mitt Romney who was the most unrelenting against the candidate who in recent weeks have pulled of a vigorous and rapid climb relative obscurity to now being essentially tied with him in the polls.

“Will the people in Nevada not have to pay Nevada sales tax in addition?” Romney asked pointedly.

Cain repeated over and over his insistence that those launching attacks on his plan are using false premises in their analyses and comparing apples to oranges, because his plan throws out the existing tax code and starts from scratch.

“And I’m going to be getting a bushel basket in it that has both apples and oranges?” Romney retorted.

Various analyses by economists, Cain’s opponents and the media since Cain began his climb have revealed that his plan could force the lower and middle class to pay more while giving wealthier individuals a break. An analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center released hours before the debate affirmed that the wealthy fare better under the plan.

Outside the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, hundreds had gathered in protest in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement that started in New York City and has expanded to cities throughout the U.S.

Protesters bore signs demonizing “fat cats” in the banking industry and yelled as audience members arrived for the debate.