LAS VEGAS -- Herman Cain's rise in the polls put him in the middle of a Wild West shootout during Tuesday's GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately for him, his 999 tax reform plan was the target. The plan would replace the current tax code with a 9 percent personal tax, 9 percent corporate tax and a new 9 percent national sales tax.
Cain's critics say taxes will go up for some middle class Americans under the 999 plan.
"Anytime you give the Congress a new tax, it doesn't go away," Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said.
Read CBN News Correspondent David Brody's analysis of Wednesday's night's debate on "The Brody File."
Texas Rep. Ron Paul said the plan was dangerous "because it raises revenues, and the worst part about it, it's regressive."
"A lot of people aren't paying any taxes, and I like that. I don't think we should even things up by raising taxes," he said.
But Cain says his plan would lower taxes for most Americans.
"None of my distinguished colleagues who have attacked me up here tonight understand the plan, "he said.
The West has been hit extremely hard in this economy. Nevada leads all 50 states in home foreclosures. Just minutes from the debate site, a string of homes sported foreclosure signs.
"It really is just frustration. You've got a range from frustration to desperation, really," Las Vegas resident Steve Hendricks said.
The candidates tried to address that frustration.
"When you talk about foreclosures, you're talking about women who are at the end of their rope because they're losing their nest for their children and their family."
A Matter of Faith
The subject of faith also came up at Tuesday's debate.
"Is it acceptable to let the issue of a candidate's faith shape the debate?" debate moderator Anderson Cooper asked the candidates.
The question resulted from recent remarks by Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, a supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Jeffress said Mitt Romney was not a Christian and Mormonism is a cult.
"That individual expressed an opinion," Perry said Tuesday. "I didn't agree with it, Mitt, and I said so."
Romney brushed aside Jeffress' remarks.
"With regards to the disparaging comments about my faith, I've heard worse, so I'm not going to lose sleep over that," the former Massachusetts governor said.
The debate's most animated moments began when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum took on the healthcare plan Romney put into place as governor of Massachusetts.
"You just don't have credibility, Mitt, when it comes to repealing Obamacare. Your plan was the basis for Obamacare," Santorum said.
"In the last campaign, I was asked 'is this something that you would have the whole nation do?' And I said 'No, this was something that was crafted for Massachusetts,'" Romney replied.
Far from mollified, Gringrich said, "There's a lot of big government under Romneycare. Not as much as Obamacare, but a heck of a lot more than your campaign is admitting."
Perry took a shot at Romney's record on immigration.
"You hired illegals in your home, and you knew about it for a year, and the idea that you stand here and talk about that you're strong on immigration is, on its face, the height of hypocrisy," Perry said.
"Rick, I don't think I've hired an illegal in my life," Romney responded. "I'm looking forward to finding your facts on that."
After several moments of squabbling between the two rivals, Romney told Perry, "You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking, and I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you've got to let both families speak. So let me speak."
And he did speak -- about Perry's job creation record in Texas.
"You probably also ought to tell people that if you look over the last several years, 40 percent, almost half of the jobs were created for illegal aliens, illegal immigrants," the former Massachusetts governor said.
Perry flatly denied the charge, calling it an "absolute falsehood on its face."
All the arguing eventually led to a call for reason.
"Maximizing bickering is probably not the road to the White House," Gingrich said.
Who Can Stay the Course?
Tuesday's forum was the eighth GOP presidential debate since the start of the primary process, with a few still to come.
In that time it's become evident that debates do matter and that voters are paying attention, a reality with which Perry has become all too familiar.
The Texas governor has fallen in the polls as Cain's star rises. It remains to be seen whether the former Godfather's Pizza CEO can rise and shine in prime time.