Say what you will about the political wisdom of making a $10,000 wager with one of your GOP rivals at a time of economic distress. As far as the fact-checkers are concerned, Rick Perry would be writing Mitt Romney a check today if he had taken him up on his wager on healthcare reform.
During the discussion of mandates in Saturday's Iowa debate, Perry made this charge: "I read your first book and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts should be the model for the country. And I know it came out of the reprint of the book. But, you know, I'm just sayin', you were for individual mandates, my friend."
Romney had heard this before, and wasn't happy to hear it again.
"You've raised that before, Rick. And you're simply wrong," he said.
"It was true then. It's true now," Perry snapped back.
And then the cringe-worthy moment: "I'll tell you what: 10,000 bucks. $10,000 bet?" Romney offered. Perry declined.
In trying to laugh off the gaffe on Sunday, Romney said his wife teased him after the debate ended, saying, "There are a lot of things you do well; betting isn't one of them."
True as that may be, in this case Romney would have cashed in.
FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan site run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said Perry was mischaracterizing what was revised in Romney's book.
On his state’s healthcare reform, Romney did originally write: "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country." That phrase did not appear in the paperback version. But, the site explains, "the same thing" referred to the goals of the Massachusetts health reform, that insurance be "portable" and "affordable," and not the individual mandate or the entire law.
"Romney saw the Massachusetts plan as a potential model for other states, if they so choose, but not as a federal mandate," FactCheck.org writes.
The "Truth-O-Meter" at PolitiFact, run by the St. Petersburg Times, graded Perry's claim as "Mostly False."
"Romney did support Massachusetts' individual mandate. But we don't see evidence in his hardcover book that he supported a federal one, much less that he removed such a reference from later editions," they write.
PolitiFact adds that Perry "did win that bet — by not betting." And to be sure, Romney did lose -- politically -- by simply offering it.
Both Perry and the Democratic National Committee have been hammering Romney over the wager ever since.
In Iowa on Sunday, Perry said that "to have an extra $10,000 that you would throw down on a bet is a little out of the ordinary," and joked that the amount was "pocket change" for Romney.
The DNC is out with this Web video on the bet, which it argues is the latest example of how Romney is "simply out of touch."