Mitt Romney did not have a particularly strong debate on Saturday night at Drake University, but his quip about a $10,000 bet could hurt him with Iowa voters in the coming weeks. If Romney stumbles in Iowa, winning the nomination could be extremely tough. The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny and Ashley Parker have more:
Mitt Romney became the target of mocking criticism on Sunday from several of his Republican presidential rivals — except Newt Gingrich, whose silence underscored his growing confidence as the party’s nominating contest enters a critical week featuring the final televised debate of the year.
A day after Mr. Romney unwittingly created a fresh punch line when he extended his hand during a debate and tried to make a $10,000 bet with Gov. Rick Perry of Texas to settle a disagreement over health care, Mr. Perry said that the exchange was the latest sign that his opponent was out of step with most voters.
“Having an extra $10,000 that you would throw down on a bet just seems very out of the ordinary,” Mr. Perry said in a brief interview as he passed through a coffee shop here. He smiled, adding, “I would suggest to you that $10,000 is pocket change for Mitt.”
Former Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. of Utah, who did not meet requirements to participate in the debate because of his low poll numbers, sought to keep the exchange alive by suggesting that he would accept Mr. Romney’s bet. The Democrats joined in the criticism, too, piecing together a Web video of the unflattering commentary about Mr. Romney at the debate on Saturday.
The remark from Mr. Romney not only drew attention to his wealth, but also highlighted how he had grown defensive three weeks before the Republican voting begins at the Iowa caucuses. He sought to brush aside questions about the $10,000 wager, but noted that his wife, Ann, told him after the debate, “A lot of things you do well; betting isn’t one of them.”