Presidential debate turns into Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Republicans
The focus of Tuesday's Republican presidential debate was supposed to be Herman Cain, but Rick Perry and Mitt Romney went at each other like heavyweights, suggesting that each thinks the other is his main competition.
In a debate notable for bickering, animosity, and highly personal exchanges, Mr. Romney played the part of punching bag on numerous occasions, most notably on health care and immigration. And for the first time in the eight Republican debates to date, Romney appeared flustered at times, especially as opponents repeatedly interrupted his rebuttals.
“You just don’t have the credibility, Mitt, when it comes to repealing ObamaCare,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum charged in one early exchange – claiming, as other candidates did, that Romney’s plan in Massachusetts that included an individual mandate was “the basis for ObamaCare.”
A little later, Texas Gov. Rick Perry fielded a question about the number of uninsured children in Texas and turned it into an attack on Romney’s immigration stance, citing a lawn-care company Romney once used that employed illegal immigrants.
“You lose all your standing from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home,” he said, calling Romney’s immigration policy “the height of hypocrisy.”
Romney countered that he’s “never hired an illegal in my life,” and added that “it is hard in this country as an individual homeowner to know if people who are contractors, working at your home, have hired people who are illegal.”
Romney got into bickering matches with both men, repeatedly calling on them to stop talking so he could defend himself.
“This has been a tough couple debates for Rick,” he said at one point, in calling for Perry to let him answer. “I understand that, you’re going to get a bit testy.”
The debated, hosted by CNN and the Western Republican Leadership Conference and moderated by Anderson Cooper, featured a format that allowed for a rebuttal from any candidate directly attacked and encouraged such exchanges. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took issue with it at the end, saying that “maximizing bickering probably isn’t the road to the White House.”