Is Cain Able?

So now the spotlight swings to Herman Cain after going dark on Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump and Sarah Palin and Rick Perry and Chris Christie.

Now, at last, some real attention is focused on the pizzaman's plan for a new tax structure as put forth in his clever branding of 9-9-9.

Following his suck-up-all-the-oxygen performance in Tuesday night's New Hampshire debate, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has him leading the Republican pack and only slightly behind Mitt Romney in the average of polling.

This means two things: everyone will want to know more about Cain's story (here's the version on his campaign website); everyone will want to know more about what 9-9-9 would mean to them (here's today's take by the New York Times).

His surge also raises three questions.

Can Cain, unlike all previous GOP surgers in this cycle, cash in on the bump and maintain a lead?

Does he have the money and organization required to win ground wars in caucus and early primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida and South Carolina?

Does the revolving door of Republican frontrunners (and the flat support for "inevitable" nominee Mitt Romney) encourage another name entry in the race or a strong third-party challenge?

I'm thinking the answer to all three questions is "no." Or, to keep in the spirit of things, nein, nein, nein.

But Cain has some assets moving forward. For one, he clearly won't back down, a trait that will attract all kinds of GOP base support. His 9-9-9 plan is based on conservative economics that combine flat taxes and the national "fair tax" theory of a federal sales tax.

Also, the plan draws fire from the right because of fears that giving Washington new taxing power with a national sales tax opens the door for Washington to increase that tax down the road. And the plan draws fire from the left on grounds it would hurt lower-income families by taxing everyday items not now taxed.

There is the theory than any plan that leaves both ends of the spectrum unhappy is probably good for the majority. But there's also the argument that 9-9-9 is a simplistic sketch merely posing as a replacement for a complex system.

So what's next? Hopefully, we'll all get detailed analyses of how individual income brackets would be impacted by 9-9-9. And, hopefully, next Tuesday's CNN debate in Vegas will help answer the question of whether Cain's economic plan is a good bet, or simply a roll of the dice.

(Please note that I resisted asking whether the pizzaman is a flash in the pan.)