Romney, Perry heat up stage at Las Vegas debate
But at the debate in Las Vegas Tuesday night, a fight for domination between the two 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls came through strong verbal punches.
In one prolonged verbal battle over illegal immigration, it seemed as if Perry was back in fighting form after poor performances in the early debates.
The Texas governor threw the first jab, accusing Romney of hiring illegal immigrants to mow his lawn and when it was Romney’s turn to respond, Perry continuously interrupted the former Massachusetts governor — drawing boos from the audience.
Here’s a transcript of how the scene unfolded as the moderator, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, played referee:
PERRY: And Mitt, you lose all of your standing, from my perspective, because you hired illegals in your home and you knew about it for a year.
And the idea that you stand here before us and talk about that you’re strong on immigration is on its face the height of hypocrisy.
COOPER: Governor Romney?
ROMNEY: Rick, I don’t think I’ve ever hired an illegal in my life. And so I’m afraid — I’m looking forward to finding your facts on that, because that just doesn’t —
PERRY: Well, I’ll tell you what the facts are.
ROMNEY: Rick, again — Rick, I’m speaking.
PERRY: You had the — your newspaper — the newspaper —
ROMNEY: I’m speaking. I’m speaking. I’m speaking…..You get 30 seconds. This is the way the rules work here, is that I get 60 seconds and then you get 30 second to respond. Right, Anderson?
PERRY: And they want to hear you say that you knew you had illegals working at your —
ROMNEY: Would you please wait? Are you just going to keep talking?
PERRY: Yes, sir.
ROMNEY: Would you let me finish with what I have to say?
At that point, the camera zoomed in on Perry revealing a sour expression on his face.
But the Texas governor, who has never lost an election, did not relent. He again accused Romney of lying to America about hiring illegal immigrants — and he kept interrupting as Romney tried to respond.
And then Romney delivered the final blow.
“You have a problem with allowing someone to finish speaking. And I suggest that if you want to become president of the United States, you have got to let both people speak,” Romney said. “So first, let me speak.”
Photo Credits: REUTERS/Richard Brian; REUTERS/Steve Marcus (Romney, Perry at the Republican debate in Las Vegas)