Republicans got back into debate mode tonight, with Rick Perry and Mitt Romney trading a series of sharp and sometimes sarcastic barbs at one another over Social Security, immigration, and other issues, reports AP. No fewer than nine candidates were on the stage, thanks to the invite extended to former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. (He got perhaps the biggest applause line of the night with this line: "My neighbor's two dogs have created more shovel-ready projects for this country" than Obama.) But Perry and Romney were the main focus, and their back-and-forth on Social Security typified things: Perry said his position on it isn't as radical as his foes say, adding it was "not the first time that Mitt's been wrong on some issues before," notes the New York Times.
Romney responded: "There's a Rick Perry out there that's saying the federal government shouldn't be in the pension business. You better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that." Perry then accused Romney of changing views of his Massachusetts health care law in different versions of his book, and later widened the flip-flopping charges to a host of other issues. (Romney used the phrase "nice try" at different times to deflect Perry criticisms.) Immigration also emerged as a main issue, with Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum criticizing the Texas policy of giving in-state tuition benefits to immigrants' kids, notes Politico. Bachmann called such programs "magnets," but Perry said of his critics, "I don't think you have a heart." Catch up with live-blogging and details on the other candidates here. (Read more Rick Perry stories.)