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Rick Perry & Mitt Romney Square Off & More GOP Best Debate Moments (Watch Video)

The night belonged to the sparring Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. Best moments from the GOP debate.

Romney and Perry Come Out Swinging

Gov. Rick Perry might have left wildfires in Texas, but he walked right into the heat at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on Wednesday. Both Perry and Mitt Romney came out swinging on jobs, the first issue on the evening’s agenda. After Romney compared Perry’s success in Texas to factors out of his control akin to “Al Gore saying he invented the Internet,” the Texas governor shot back, “Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.”

Perry: We Don’t Want Romney’s Healthcare Plan

While the candidates might have agreed on ending Obamacare, Perry and Romney took shots at each other whenever possible. Perry, the frontrunner since his recent entrance in the race, said that though nearly a quarter of his state’s population is uninsured, Texans would still prefer his plan over Romney’s Massachusetts overhaul any day. In fact, the Texas governor added that the other candidates—including Romney—would agree with his stance on the issue. “Mitt and Jon would both agree and I know Newt would as well…If we can get the federal government out of our business in the states when it comes to healthcare, we’ll come up with ways to deliver more healthcare to more people cheaper,” the GOP frontrunner said.

Gingrich: Keep the Peace!

Why can’t they just all be friends? Fed up with moderators Brian Williams and John Harris, the former speaker went after the media—again. In the wake of Perry and Romney’s blows over their respective healthcare plans, Gingrich was unwilling to back one plan over another. “Well, I’m frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other… You would like to puff this up into some giant thing,” he said. After Gingrich’s top aides left en masse, we’re guessing he just wants to keep his allies intact.

Perry: Social Security Is a ‘Ponzi Scheme’

Here’s one way to double down: The Texas governor maintained his controversial view on Social Security, disagreeing—naturally—with Romney’s argument that the program is not a failure “by any measure.” The former Massachusetts governor criticized Perry’s take on the program in his 2010 book Fed Up!, in which the frontrunner initially called it a “Ponzi scheme.” While Romney vowed to save the program rather than allow states to opt out, Perry showed no sign of backing down: “Maybe it’s time to have some provocative language in this country.”

Perry: The ‘Piñata’ at the Party

All eyes—and questions—were on Perry for his debut, leaving the governor feeling more like a punching bag than the GOP’s latest frontrunner, midway through the debate. Iowa Straw Poll winner Michele Bachmann took a back seat through the night, using one of her five responses to attack Perry’s mandatory HPV vaccinations and tout her agenda. After both Ron Paul and the congresswoman went after Perry’s mandate to vaccinate “innocent” girls, the governor said he felt deflated: “I kind of feel like the piñata here at the party.”

Candidates: Secure the Border

Among the areas where the nine candidates did find common ground were tough views on immigration and adoration for Ronald Reagan, the last president to sign immigration reform. Several advocated for a fence along with more boots on the ground to secure such a structure, but Perry went a step further when discussing the safety of the U.S.-Mexico border: “For the President of the United States to go to El Paso, Texas and say that the border is safer than it’s ever been…he was an abject liar to the American people.” Try that for “provocative language.”

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Did Perry Compare Himself to Galileo?

First, Michele Bachmann said she was Margaret Thatcher. And now, is the Texas governor comparing himself to the scientist from the 1600s? At least when describing his stance on climate change: “Just because you have a group of scientists who have stood up and said ‘here is the fact,’ Galileo got outvoted for a spell,” he said. Congresswoman Bachmann went straight to the point when addressing her stance on the issue, confirming that she still believed in drilling in the Everglades.