Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the GOP debate in Florida. (Scott Audette / Reuters )
Mitt Romney knew that questions about his Massachusetts healthcare plan would keep coming — but again the kill-shot seemed elusive.
Rick Perry was given a chance to fire at point-blank range in the Fox News/Google debate Thursday when Romney was asked about Perry’s remarks a day earlier that labeled him "Obama-lite" and likened his Massachusetts plan to "socialized medicine."
“I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about,” Romney said, explaining again that he would work to do away with the similar Democratic healthcare overhaul if elected president.
Perry had his shot at a rebuttal and attempted to frame Romney as a flip-flopper.
“Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with,” Perry said, echoing a similar attack Romney had used against him earlier. But he seemed to lose focus after that, offering no pointed attack, no comparisons between the Massachusetts plan and the Democratic plan, no further explanations of the socialism charge.
As for assaults on the Democratic overhaul, Herman Cain drew the loudest applause when he detailed his survival from Stage 4 colon and liver cancer and claimed that under the President Obama-backed healthcare plan, he would not have recovered.
He got better, he said to a loud ovation, “on my timetable, not the government’s timetable. That’s what saved my life.”
Romney cited Cain in battling with Perry. “Our plan in Massachusetts has some good parts, some bad parts, some things I'd change, some things I like about it. It's different than ‘Obamacare.’ And what ... you heard from Herman Cain is one absolutely key point, which is ‘Obamacare’ intends to put someone between you and your physician. It must be repealed.”
That’s when Perry saw his chance.
“I think Americans just don't know sometimes which Mitt Romney they're dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was ... against the 2nd Amendment before he was for the 2nd Amendment? ... He was for standing up for Roe vs. Wade before he was against ... Roe vs. Wade. ... He was for Race to the Top. He's for 'Obamacare,' and now he's against it. I mean, we'll wait until tomorrow and ... see which Mitt Romney we're really talking to tonight.”
Romney claimed he had been consistent in his policy positions, but seemed to acknowledge that he had some political vunerabilities.
“I’m going to stand by my positions. I'm proud of them," Romney said. "There are a lot of reasons not to elect me, a lot of reasons not to elect other people on the stage. But one reason to elect me is that I know what I stand for. I've written it down; words have meaning, and I have the experience to get this country going again.”