Rick Perry drew feisty attacks on stage and a few boos from the crowd at tonight's GOP debate in Florida, which also saw Michele Bachmann step it up a notch after fading in the first debate, Politico reports. Tonight kicked off with a fiery exchange on Social Security, when Mitt Romney accused Perry of frightening Americans by calling it a "Ponzi scheme." Perry won a round of applause by reminding Romney that he had equated Social Security with "a criminal enterprise." Both candidates, however, echoed Bachmann in saying Social Security must be maintained but put on a solid financial footing. In other debate highlights:
- Perry drew fire for defending his in-state tuition plan for some illegal immigrants in Texas. "I think the American way is not to give taxpayer benefits to people who are here" illegally, Bachmann said. Jon Huntsman attacked Perry for opposing a border fence, saying, "For Rick to say you can't secure the border I think is pretty much a treasonous comment." Romney outflanked Perry on the right by slamming him on both immigration issues.
- Bachmann and Rick Santorum went after Perry for making Texas the first state to require schoolgirls to get vaccinated against HPV, a sexually transmitted virus. Bachmann accused Perry of using girls as profit engines for a drug company, saying he shouldn't have forced "innocent little 12-year-old girls [to] have a government injection by an executive order."
- Romney assured the Tea Party-heavy crowd that he wouldn't replicate the Massachusetts health care plan if elected president. “I’m not running for governor. I’m running for president,” he said, and quickly moved on.
- Bachmann won rounds of applause for a passionate assault on President Obama's health care plan, interrupting Wolf Blitzer as he tried to go to a commercial. "2012 is it," she said, the last chance to stop the US from having "socialized medicine."
- Romney revealed his strategy for dealing with Perry's strong jobs record in Texas, citing the state's low taxes, oil, and right to work laws as reasons employment has flourished there. "If you're dealt four aces, that doesn't make you a terrific poker player." Quipped Perry: "You were doing pretty good until you got to talking poker."
- Asked whether Perry deserves credit for his jobs record, Ron Paul said, "Not quite ... I would put a little damper on this but I don't want to offend the governor because he might raise my taxes or something."
- Perry stood by his remark that Ben Bernanke's actions have been "treasonous." Pressed to react, Bachmann said, "As president of the US I would not be reappointing Ben Bernanke."
- Perry slammed Obama's new jobs plan, saying "he's gonna pay for them all by raising your taxes." On growing the economy, Perry said Obama has "created zero jobs. I can do the math on that one. Half of zero jobs is zero jobs." Small businesses will create "an economy that takes off like a rocket ship" if they're allowed, he said.
- On social programs, Bachmann said that “President Obama stole over $500 billion from Medicare to switch it over to Obamacare."
- Asked to talk about jobs, Huntsman called the economic situation a "human tragedy. (There are) millions and millions of unemployed....(who are) economically shipwrecked." He objected to going "forward with Obamacare" and said it is time to end the "heroin-like addiction to foreign oil."
- Hunstman continued to argue that the US must pull out of Afghanistan. "We don’t need 100,000 troops in Afghanistan nation-building, at a time when this nation needs to be built," he said.
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