It wasn't great, but Rick Perry finally got off the mat and looked like he had a game plan in Tuesday night's raucous GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas.
But just as significant was the full-on assault that Mitt Romney took from Perry, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich on the universal health care plan he instituted in Massachusetts. Officials with the Obama administration used the Massachusetts plan as a model for the national version signed by the president last year, a bill whose repeal has been urged by all the candidates in this year's election cycle.
Romney was prepared for the attacks (which until last night strangely hadn't happened). He also exposed the reality that the individual mandate — which Republicans say is the most evil part of "ObamaCare" and will be decided by the U.S. Supreme court — has its roots in conservative dogma, namely in the person of the Heritage Foundation and yes, Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich made a fool of himself when he objected strenuously to Romney's accurate charge that he himself used to support an individual mandate in health care reform. After a back and forth, Newt admitted, yeah, okay, I was for it before I was against it.
"Your plan essentially is one more big government bureaucratic high cost system which candidly could not have been done by any other state because no other state had a Medicare program as lavish as yours, and no one got a grant from the Bush administration for this experiment," Gingrich charged.
"Actually, Newt, we got the idea of an individual mandate from you," Romney replied.
"You did not get that from me," Gingrich insisted. "You got it from the Heritage Foundation."
"And you never supported it?" Romney asked.
"I absolutely did — with the Heritage Foundation — against Hillarycare," Gingrich admitted.
"OK, that's what I'm saying. We got the idea from you and the Heritage Foundation," Romney concluded.
Romney has insisted that his plan was only for Massachusetts, and he would never think of implementing it nationwide.
But that's not what he wrote in a Wall Street op-ed in 2006:
How much of our health-care plan applies to other states? A lot. Instead of thinking that the best way to cover the uninsured is by expanding Medicaid, they can instead reform insurance.
Will it work? I’m optimistic, but time will tell. A great deal will depend on the people who implement the program. Legislative adjustments will surely be needed along the way. One great thing about federalism is that states can innovate, demonstrate and incorporate ideas from one another. Other states will learn from our experience and improve on what we’ve done. That’s the way we’ll make health care work for everyone.
Of course the big story going in was how would Herman Cain handle the bright spotlight now that he is the co-front runner, according to recent polls. The answer was not good, as each candidate began the debate by bashing Cain's signature 9-9-9 plan.
Cain responded to the criticism that the last "9" in his plan, a national 9 percent sales tax, would be an increase in taxes for many people, as economists have already noted. Cain responded that those charges were "simply not true," and repeatedly said his opponents were "talking apples and oranges."
So what about Rick Perry? He delivered some shots early, including impersonating Rudy Giuliani circa 2007, who also bashed Romney on illegal immigration for employing an undocumented person cutting his lawn. Watch below:
For all of his troubles in the debates, Rick Perry has shown he can raise money, which is why all of the "experts" are refusing to write him off. And the fact that Romney went so hard against him shows that the co-front-runner still fears the Texas governor more than the former Godfather's Pizza CEO.