Mitt Romney may have got a bit carried away during the GOP candidates’ debate on Saturday, when he extended a hand to candidate Rick Perry and said: “Rick, I’ll tell you what: $10,000 bucks? Ten thousand bet?”.
The bet — which Perry declined to take part in, saying “I’m not in the betting business” — was about a line in Romney’s book No Apology. Perry claimed it showed support for national healthcare. .
Romney, who brought healthcare reform to Massachussets in a move that was unpopular with conservatives, said that he did not support the measure nationwide and denied that the passage appeaered in the first edition of the book.
The fact-checking site Politifact rated the claim made by Perry as “mostly false”.
But although Romney might well have won the bet if Perry had accepted, he is more likely than not regretting it as he has given his rival candidates more ammunition against him.
The $10,000 bet (the first in 50 years of televised US debates) sheds light on Romney’s personal wealth; he is thought to be the wealthiest candidate, with his latest financial disclosure in 2008 putting his personal wealth at between $190m and $250m. The median average income in America is $26,197. The bet could even go against his Mormon faith. But most importantly, his political rivals now have the opportunity to accuse him of being flimsy.
Both Perry and Jon Huntsman have come out with ads focusing on this debate faux pas, one titled “The truth cannot be bought” and the other “Challenge Accepted”. And the Huntsman team even bought the domain name 10kbet.com.
Over at Marbury, Ian Leslie argues that the Romney campaign might even have premeditated the bet in a spectacular misjudgement:
The mistake wasn’t so much the size of the bet as the fact that by attempting to create a ‘moment’, the Romney camp have only ended up drawing attention to their candidate’s fatal flaw.
Romney’s press secretary, Eric Fehrnstrom, tried to downplay the damage, claiming that Romney was joking in the way that friends might make million dollar bets with each other. It seems like the joke is on the Romney campaign.