In the most contentious of Republican debates yet, on Tuesday Texas governor Rick Perry, intent on salvaging his sinking campaign, came out swinging against Mitt Romney. He got it back, as ugly as he gave.
Herman Cain, the other lightning rod, held his own with another solid performance defending his 9-9-9-tax plan against an all-out attack from the remaining candidates. He leads the race jointly with Romney.
But the star attraction of the debate in Las Vegas was the Romney-Perry exchange. That they don't like each other is certain. But Tuesday night, they went for it.
Governor, you are fine one to talk against immigration, Perry started, looking directly at Romney. You employed illegal immigrants. It's an old charge, and one that hasn't stuck in the past. "It's the height of hypocrisy," Perry said.
Romney has said those immigrants were actually employed by a lawn maintenance company he had hired. He had fired it when it was brought to his notice. The next one had a similar problem and was asked to go too.
But Perry was in no mood to be nice of fair tonight, and wouldn't let Romney present his defense. Since his chart-bursting debut in August, Perry was seen fumbling for words and ideas in the debates driving away many conservatives.
He got booed Tuesday night for the charges against Romney, who hasn't manage to fire up the conservatives despite leading the race consistently, but held his own. The influential Tea Party doesn't like Romney, and is seen tilting towards Cain.