Barbour and Ryan: We Love 9-9-9!

Outgoing Mississippi governor Haley Barbour and former RNC chairman talks to Laura Ingraham about Herman Cain, and praises him to the seventh heaven. “If Herman Cain is our nominee against our Barack Obama,” he says, “I think he’ll sweep the South.” As proof of how much support he has in Mississippi, with a very white Republican electorate: “I think if it were today, I think my wife would vote for Herman Cain.”

That’s the headline, but to me Barbour’s praise of 9-9-9 is even more interesting. “He has proposed something that is common-sensical, easy to understand,” says Cain. “That’s the thing about our party: Too often, we sound like accountants.”

Is Barbour off the reservation? Actually, no. Earlier today, John Rossomando reported on his interview with Paul Ryan, saying that the chairman of the House Budget Committee “loves” 9-9-9: “We need more bold ideas like this because it is specific and credible.”

Specific and credible! These are two of the great brains of the modern GOP, and they’re crackling with delight over a plan that would effectively raise taxes on millions of people. Two things could be happening.

1) Pro-Romney reverse psychology. Neither Barbour nor Ryan has endorsed Mitt Romney, but attitudinally and strategically they like the idea of a Romney nomination more than a Perry nomination. A Cain nomination isn’t likely (he’s capitalizing on his surge by, er, hitting the book tour circuit in Tennessee), and it would definitely help Cain if elected Republicans attacked him.

2) Actual agreement with Cain. This is what I touched on in my piece yesterday. As bad as the details of 9-9-9 are, its basics – tax simplification, making the middle class and poor “pay their fair share” – are components of all current GOP tax arguments.