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Cold Night, Hot Debate in Iowa

Newt Gingrich was attacked as the GOP front runner Saturday night.
Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News
Newt Gingrich was attacked as the GOP front runner Saturday night.

If you're every wondering who the current GOP front-runner is, just watch a debate.

Six Republican presidential hopefuls took the stage for the ABC News debate at Drake University in Des Moines Iowa Saturday night. But it was Newt Gingrich who took most of the punches. ABC moderators George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer didn't help the former speaker, aiming many of the debate's questions at Gingrich's policies and campaign statements. 

The format allowed for a couple of moments where each candidate was essentially asked to comment about a specific aspect of Gingrich. That included a question about whether infidelity is a valid campaign topic and something that voters should consider in a presidential campaign.

Gingrich answered each criticism with an even temper. The same could not be said for his main rival Mitt Romney, who appeared flustered when responding to attacks by Gingrich and Rick Perry.

Romney's worst moment of the night came when he bet Perry $10,000 that he didn't change a line in a book  about the state healthcare law he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts. Here's a snippet of that exchange:

RICK PERRY: I'm-- I'm-- (THROAT CLEARING) I'm listenin' to you, Mitt, and I'm hearin' you say all the right things.  But I read your first book and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts w-- should be the model for the country.  And I know it came out of-- of the-- the reprint of the book.  But, you know, I'm just sayin', you were for individual mandates, my friend. MITT ROMNEY: You know what?  You've raised that before, Rick.  And-- you're simply wrong. RICK PERRY: It-- it-- it was true then.  (CHUCKLE) It's true now. MITT ROMNEY: That-- now, this-- Rick, I'll-- I'll tell you what.  (CHUCKLE) 10,000 bucks-- (APPLAUSE) $10,000 bet? RICK PERRY: I'm not in the bettin' business, but I'll show you the book.

Romney's campaign had to play defense on the issue in the spin room post-debate, saying the fact that Perry didn't take the bet showed he knew he was wrong.

Perry's campaign countered by painting Romney as a Wall Street fat cat, someone who might carry $10,000 around in their wallet but has little sense of the economic reality for middle-class America.

Perry's campaign also acknowledged that tonight's debate, and Perry's good showing, could give the campaign a nice bounce heading into a two-week bus tour of Iowa leading up to the caucus vote on January 3.

The governor heads to Ames, Iowa Sunday.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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