It’s fair to say that all the Republican presidential candidates are pretty wealthy. But Mitt Romney possibly made a big mistake in Saturday night’s debate by offering to make a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry. While Perry turned down the bet, Romney’s opponents seized on Romney’s offer as a sign of his lack of understanding of the hardships facing most Americans.
Romney has been the frontrunner in the Republican campaign for most of the year, despite apparent misgivings on the part of many within the party. His $10,000 offer, however, might turn out to be his first really big mis-step in the campaign, and will doubtless be seized upon by his rivals in the run up to the Iowa caucus. The $10,000 bet could cost Romney votes at a time when he can ill afford to lose ground.
Romney’s main rival, Newt Gingrich, had a reasonably assured evening. He (mostly) batted away sustained attacks from his rivals, and had a good answer for Romney’s attack on him for being a ‘career politician’. This was a more assured performance from Gingrich than many expected, and should cement his current lead over Romney. Recent polls put him as much as 13 percentage points ahead of the rest of the pack, something that would have seemed impossible just a couple of months ago when Gingrich looked to be down and out in this campaign.
The other candidates had a fairly quiet night. Ron Paul, currently more or less equal second with Romney in the polls, landed a few blows on Gingrich but mostly failed to be heard on a range of issues. Michele Bachmann was mostly invisible, Rick Santorum was barely there, and Jon Huntsman had the courtesy to be elsewhere on a night when he likely would have been almost ignored anyway. This is looking like a battle between Romney and Gingrich now, with Paul as a dark horse who could yet cause an upset.