RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Let's hear, now, about Republican presidential hopeful, Rick Perry, who'll be in South Carolina this morning, to outline his plan for a flat tax. As NPR's Mara Liasson reports, it's just one of the moves the Texas Governor is making to revive his campaign.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Rick Perry has hired new staff, prepared a round of television ads and launched a new attack on Mitt Romney for allowing illegal immigrants to get free health care in Massachusetts. And today in South Carolina, Perry will try to show he is the anti-establishment candidate in the race - by laying out a proposal for a radical rewrite of the tax code that he says will create jobs, growth, and investor confidence.
RICK PERRY REPUBLCIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to make the tax code so simple that even Timothy Geithner can file his taxes on time.
LIASSON: Mitt Romney is on record opposing a flat tax - for many of the same reasons that Democrats do. Romney once called a flat tax plan from Steve Forbes, - who endorsed Perry yesterday - a tax cut for fat cats.
So Perry's plan could set off the first real ideological debate of the Republican primary. Republican strategist Mike Murphy says it also represents an overdue effort by Perry to lay out the building blocks of a presidential campaign.
MIKE MURPHY: So far he's been very light on policy, Romney's put out a pretty detailed plan, but his plan is basic conservative economics, it's not revolutionary, because Romney has one eye on the general election. So, we want to see what the Perry plan is - the balance between ideological purity and policy pragmatism.
LIASSON: In the past, flat tax proposals have sounded good on paper, but when middle class taxpayers get out their calculators they sour on them, because most flat tax plans raise taxes on the middle class.
But supply side conservatives don't value progressivity in the tax code, what they want is economic growth. And this year, a big chunk of the Republican Party is in the mood for bold, even radical reform. Still it might take more than a carefully crafted tax plan to lift Perry's campaign, after entering the race at the top of the pack, he's now polling in single digits in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Mara Liasson, NPR news.. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.