Mitt Romney's Losing $10,000 Bet at Iowa Debate (Video)

Romney's wager to Perry had Democrats and Republicans falling over themselves to cast him as out-of-touch

Texas Gov. Rick Perry finally turned the tables on Mitt Romney Saturday night in an exchange at the debate in Des Moines that saw the former Massachusetts governor fumble in just the way Perry had previously, after being goaded into a making a fool-hardy remark.

Perry, addressing himself once again to a critique of Romney's health-care policy in Massachusetts, said: "You know, I'm just saying you were for individual mandates my friend."

"You know what, you've raised that before, Rick. And you're still wrong," Romney retorted.

"It was true then. It's true now," Perry replied, laughing.

"10,000 bucks? 10,000 dollar bet?" Romney shot out his hand looking for Perry to take the bait.

Perry laughed again. "I'm not in the bettin' business, but I'll show you the book."

"I've got the book," snipped Romney.

It may have been intended as a figure of speech, but for a candidate who was in his youth photographed with money falling out of his suit, who is known for coming from a plush background and having made an even vaster fortune, and who was not able to name a single instance of material want, ever, when probed on the subject at the debate, it didn't seem so metaphorical. "I didn't grow up poor. And if somebody is looking for someone who's grown up with that background, I'm -- I'm not the person," Romney said at the debate.

But who has $10,000 to bet with -- these days, or any other?

TPM reported the Newt Gingrich's spokesperson R.C. Hammond twisted the knife after the debate, asking in the spin room in Des Moines, "My only question is, did he have the cash in his pocket?"

Democrats who have been prepping for a general election contest against Romney could not contain their glee. After the hashtag #What10Kbuys began trending worldwide within the hour after the debate ended, the Democratic National Committee alerted people to that and started using the tag (the only place it was still trending by next morning, however, was Washington, D.C.). And while the debate was ongoing the Democratic National Committee sent out a release, "Here's What the Average American Family Can Buy with $10,000."

In tonight's Iowa Debate Mitt Romney casually offered a $10,000 bet, after calling a $1,500 tax break for the middle class a band-aid. Mitt Romney may not know what $10,000 means to middle class families, but here's what the average American family can buy with $10,000:

$10,000 Is More Than Four Months Pay For Most Americans (Median Income Was $26,197 in 2010) [Census.gov, accessed 12/10/11]

$10,000 Is More Than The Average Public In-State Four-Year College Tuition ($8,244) [CollegeBoard, accessed 12/10/11]

$10,000 Is Almost Three Times What The Average Family Spends On Groceries In A Year ($3624) [BLS.gov, accessed 12/10/11]

$10,000 Would Cover More Than A Year's Worth Of Mortgage Payments For The Typical American Home Purchased Today ($8,376) [National Association of Realtors, 10/6/11]

The campaign of Jon Huntsman -- who was barred from the debate stage for low polling numbers -- quickly snapped up the 10KBet.com url, though which it will doubtless goad Romney at some time in the future.

The real problem for Romney though is that his foul-up came just as he's begun to lose control of the front-runner narrative he'd established. But perhaps that's the point -- it's possible Romney is simply better in debates as the presumed likely front-runner than as the seemingly permanent understudy to a rotating cast of pugnacious GOP personalities who need to fail before people can settle on him. And that now that he has proved unable to solidify his position, and voting is set to begin in just weeks, the shifting sands on which he finds himself have unsettled him.

Still, a $10,000 bet in Iowa, where the per capita income in 2010 was $38,084?

That he would have said such a thing shows that Romney's lack of on the ground campaigning in the state has really hurt him, if only because it's allowed him to forget the audience he was speaking before.

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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