The most memorable line of Saturday’s Republican presidential debate wasn’t a line -- it was a number. And if you didn’t catch it, the Democrats are going to make sure you do.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, smiling and with his hand outstretched, offered Texas Gov. Rick Perry a $10,000 bet. It was a reminder that Romney isn’t just wealthy—he’s a multimillionaire. To offer up such a sum so easily, in the midst of a punishing recession, could strike some as tone-deaf. The Democratic National Committee is already seizing on the comment as proof that Romney is out of touch.
Perry had accused Romney of removing language that expressed support for the individual mandate from the second edition of Romney’s book, ‘No Apology: The Case for America’s Greatness.’ Romney assured Perry his opposition to the mandate has been consistent, and bet him $10,000 that no incriminating language had been removed.
“Rick, I'll tell you what, 10,000 bucks, $10,000 bet,” he said.
To which Perry responded, “I’m not in the betting business.”
Before the debate had even ended, the DNC was out with a message to reporters.
“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,” the email read. It went on to list some examples: “$10,000 is more than four months’ pay for most Americans”; “$10,000 is more than the average public in-state four-year college tuition”; “$10,000 is almost three times what the average family spends on groceries in a year.”
The DNC also tweeted its list, and encouraged followers to tweet examples of what $10,000 buys.
In fact, Romney would have won the bet. In the original edition of his book, No Apology, he writes on page 177 that "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care."
An updated version, printed in 2011, merely changes the tense of that sentence.
After the debate, Romney adviser Stu Stevens downplayed the significance of the statement, dismissing it as "a very human thing to do to get someone to shut up when they're not telling the truth."
Sarah B. Boxer contributed from Des Moines, Iowa contributed to this article.