Eight GOP hopefuls castigated President Obama and each other tonight in a frequently testy debate in Ames, Iowa. Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann were especially hostile to each other early, while Mitt Romney largely avoided any one-on-one battles and focused on the president. Overshadowing the debate: News that Rick Perry, who wasn't a participant, would announce his candidacy this weekend. Some highlights:
- Romney said, "I'm not going to eat Barack Obama's dog food," when asked whether he would have vetoed the debt ceiling legislation. "What he served up is not what I would have as president of the United States."
- Pawlenty offered to cook dinner for anyone who can find Obama's economic plan. He said he'd mow the lawn too, before turning to Romney: “In case Mitt wins, I’m limited to one acre.”
- Pawlenty repeatedly sparred with Bachmann, calling her record in Congress "nonexistent" and adding, "She's got a record of misstating and making false statements. Bachmann responded with a list of what she called Pawlenty's liberal policies as governor. "You said the era of small government is over," she said. "That sounds a lot like Barack Obama if you ask me."
- Newt Gingrich bristled at a query about his staffing trouble and told Chris Wallace to put away the "gotcha questions" and focus on substance.
- Rick Santorum: "I haven't gotten to say a lot," referring at the time to the focus on Pawlenty-Bachmann. Later, he got into a foreign policy debate with Ron Paul. "Iran is not Iceland, Ron," he said at one point.
- Herman Cain: "America's got to learn to take a joke," referring to his previous statements on immigration.
- Paul: He called for putting "militarism" on the table, as in military cuts, and got cheers. He said he was happy that the idea of auditing the Fed, a longtime goal of his, seemed to be getting mainstream debate.
- Jon Huntsman: Acknowledged he had not yet presented an economic plan, but he cited his economic record as governor of Utah as evidence of what he would accomplish as president. He defended his service as ambassador to China under Obama.