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Mitt Romney challenges Rick Perry to $10,000 bet in GOP debate

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In a moment during Saturday’s GOP debate in Iowa that The Fix’s Chris Cillizza called a “rare but likely costly unforced error,” former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney challenged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to a $10,000 bet on Romney’s position on the individual mandate in the nation’s new health insurance law.

The requirement that Americans carry health insurance or face a penalty is the most controversial element in President Obama’ health-care law, and was also a component of the health-care law Romney signed while governor of Massachusetts.

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As he has repeatedly in the past, Perry accused Romney of backing away from a statement suggesting the Massachusetts health-care law was a model for the rest of the nation.

“I read your first book and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts should be the model,” Perry said. “And I know it came out of the reprint of the book. But, you know, I’m just saying, you were for the individual mandates, my friend.”

After a bit of back-and-forth, a visibly annoyed Romney extended his hand to Perry:

“Rick, I’ll tell you what, 10,000 bucks?” Romney said. “$10,000 bet?”

Perry, who appeared surprised by the move, declined, saying he is “not in the betting business” but offered to show him the book.

For a candidate who is well known for being fantastically wealthy, the hefty wager on national television may not help Romney demonstrate that he can relate to the average voter. Instantly, Romney’s challenge caught fire online, and within an hour the Twitter hashtag #what10Kbuys, started by the Democratic National Committee, was trending worldwide, ABC News reported. The campaign of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who was excluded from the Iowa debate due to poor polling performance there, launched, a Web site highlighting past news coverage of Mitt Romney and the individual mandate.

After the debate, Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom defended the bet.

“I’ve sat around with my friends before and made million-dollar bets and usually the sum of the bet depends on how strongly I feel about the rightness of my position,” Fehrnstrom told The Post’s Philip Rucker in the spin room. “Tonight, Mitt Romney was attacked again with a false allegation that in his book he argued for a national health care plan based on what he passed in Massachusetts. That’s bogus. In making that wager, Mitt Romney knew that Rick Perry wouldn’t accept it. By backing down, Rick Perry looked weak. I thought that was a revealing moment for him, and not a good one.”

During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Perry said he was ”taken aback” by the wager.

“I’m driving out to the station this morning. I’m sure I didn’t drive by a house that anyone in Iowa would even think about that a $10,000 bet was possible,” Perry said. “So, a little out of touch with the normal Iowa citizen. But the issue of individual mandates is still at the center here and Mitt can deny this as many times as he wants, but in his first book, hard cover of ‘No Apologies,’ he clearly stated that individual mandates should be the model for this country and then he took that out of the book in the paperback. That’s the fact. And even a $10,000 bet is not going to cover that.”

But Post “Fact Checker” Glenn Kessler examined Perry’s claim when it was featured in an anti-Romney campaign ad and gave it three Pinocchios, writing that Perry attempted to “manufacture a phony issue.”

In fact, while Romney has a reputation as a flip-flopper (which this ad tries to exploit), he has been consistent in saying he did not want to import his plan to the rest of the country.

Read the full exchange from Saturday’s debate below:

PERRY: Well, I’m listening to you, Mitt, and I’m hearing you say all the right things. But I read your first book, and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts, which should be the model for the country -- and I know it came out of the reprint of the book, but, you know, I’m just saying, you were for individual mandates, my friend.
ROMNEY: You know what, you’ve raised that before, Rick. And you’re simply wrong.
PERRY: It was true then...
ROMNEY: No, no...
PERRY: And it’s true now.
ROMNEY: Rick, I’ll tell you what...
ROMNEY: ... 10,000 bucks? $10,000 bet?
PERRY: I’m not in the betting business...
ROMNEY: Oh, okay.
PERRY: ... but I’ll show you the
ROMNEY: I wrote the...
PERRY: I’ll show you the book.
ROMNEY: I’ve got the book and...
ROMNEY: And I wrote the book. And I have it. And Chapter 7, there’s a section called “The Massachusetts Model,” and I say as close, as I can quote, I say, in my view, each state should be able to fashion their own program for the specific needs of their distinct citizens.
And then I go on to talk about the states being the laboratories of democracy, and we can learn from one another. I have not said in that book, first edition or the latest edition, anything about our plan being a national model imposed on the nation. The right course for America -- and I’ve said this during the debates last time around; I’ll say it now and time again -- is to let individual states -- this is a remarkable nation. This idea of federalism is so extraordinary. Let states craft their own solutions. Don’t have ObamaCare put on us by the federal government.

This post was last updated at 11:59 a.m. ET.

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