In this debate, finally, Romney's rivals tried to sustain a collective attack on the health insurance program he designed and implemented in Massachusetts. Someone (Gingrich, I think) charged that it jacked up healthcare costs in Massachusetts, which have indeed risen at faster than the national rate (as they did before the plan was implemented). Someone else (Perry, I think) charged that Romney had held the plan up as a model for the whole country -- rehashing an excision between editions of Romney's campaign book -- and others piled on.
Once again, however, what nobody managed to do was to spell out the extent to which the Affordable Care Act was modeled on Romneycare-- that the national plan borrows the subsidized exchanges composed of private health plans conforming to minimum coverage rules, with the whole structure made economically viable by the individual mandate and the employer mandate. Romney was again allowed to emphasize that he created a free market solution for the uninsured, though he didn't get around this time to the lie that the ACA is by contrast "government controlled," as if it weren't structured the same way. Gingrich even threw Romney a bone, asserting that Romneycare "wasn't as bad" as Obamacare without detailing how they were different, or similar.
Oddly, the only one to highlight a key structural similarity between the ACA and Romneycare was Romney, who told Gingrich that he got the idea of the individual mandate from him and the Heritage Foundation -- and made the claim stick when Newt denied it. That's a double bonus for the Dems, highlighting the ACA's long GOP pedigree.
Of the rest, there were so many lies, slanders, panderings, nostrums and nonsensical statements that it makes me weary to even think of itemizing them. I was happy, however, to note that this seven-headed monster spent a fair amount of energy biting itself -- that is, several candidates accused each other of lying, flip-flopping, being unworthy of trust. Santorum accused Perry of being for TARP before he was against it -- when it fact, it seems, Perry simply made good use in 2009 of his gutless equivocation in October 2008. Perry histrionically rehashed the 2007 debate charge that Romney hired illegal immigrants to mow his lawn and then lied about it, for which Romney's defense boiled down to "it's so hard to get good help these days" -- and Perry, in a shoutfest, flat-out accused him of lying. Herman Cain did the job on himself without much help, claiming that he didn't say(or mean) three things that he's said quite recently -- that the U.S. should put up an electrified border fence, that it should negotiate with al Qaeda if they took a U.S. hostage, and that the unemployed are to blame for their predicament. Michele Bachmann used every question as an occasion to demonize Obama and was duly ignored by everyone else.
Another edifying evening. I'd like to think that after a few more such victories Romney will be finished (for the general). Pretty to think so.