The clash between the establishment and the insurgency in the fight for the 2012 Republican nomination is shifting to a new arena: tax policy.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and businessman Herman Cain, two of the candidates pursuing the votes of the most conservative bloc of Republicans, are both touting radical overhauls of the federal tax code. But former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the candidate most closely associated with the party establishment, has opted against such an approach and has offered a proposal that would largely keep the current tax structure in place.
The differing approaches are yet another reframing of the risks-and-rewards choice being offered to Republican primary voters as they seek the 2012 standard-bearer: Are they more focused on beating President Obama next year or turning the country in a more conservative direction?
Party activists have long called for moves to simplify the tax code, as Cain and Perry are proposing. But these approaches come with a major risk in an electoral season. Cain has already faced strong criticism for his plan to shift the tax burden from the wealthy to more lower-income Americans, questions Perry will probably have to answer as well.