In their onstage scuffles, the former Massachusetts governor has come out ahead, delivering two strong debate performances
Rick Perry has cost Mitt Romney his lead in the polls but made him a better candidate and potentially, a more formidable nominee.
The former Massachusetts governor, long disparaged as a fragile frontrunner for the nomination, is showing a spark that seemed elusive when he topped the national polls. He delivered his second confident debate performance against Perry on Monday, raising more questions about the Texas governor's position on Social Security even as Perry tried to close out the discussion by vowing the benefits were "slam-dunk guaranteed'' for current recipients.
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In the most pivotal moment of the debate, Romney laid a trap for Perry by asking if he was going to "retreat'' from the idea that Social Security is an unconstitutional federal program that should be turned over to the states.
It was as if Romney had waved a red flag in front of the typically hard-charging Perry, who balked instead of lunging forward. First he mocked the idea that the New Deal was beyond reproach, but then he said "obviously we're not going to take away'' such an institution. "I think we ought to have a conversation.'' Perry said.