(Screenshot via YouTube)Rick Perry's dismal debate performance overshadowed one of the Texas governor's most potentially effective lines of attack during last week's 2012 Republican forum: His accusation that Mitt Romney flip-flopped on health care.
And the Perry campaign has released a new video this Monday putting that claim front and center. The spot highlights a passage from the original version of Romney's book, "No Apology," in which the former governor praises the health law he passed as governor of Massachusetts.
"We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country," Mr. Romney wrote when the book was first released in March 2010.
But as Perry pointed out during last week's debate--and again in this ad, which uses a sound bite of Romney reading the passage from the 2010 audio book version—the sentence was not included in the paperback edition of Romney's book released earlier this year.
"Oops. Words deleted," the Perry video notes, pointing at the passage in question with a giant red arrow.
The spot then cuts to footage from last week's debate, showing Perry citing the original book passage as evidence that Romney wanted to expand his Massachusetts plan nationally. Perry implied that Romney had removed the sentence from his book to help his 2012 campaign.
"Please don't try and make me retreat from the words that I wrote in my book. I stand by what I wrote. I believe in what I did. And I believe that the people of this country can read my book and see exactly what it is," Romney is shown saying in the video.
"Good," Perry replies, beaming.
You can watch the ad below, courtesy of the Perry campaign:
Romney aides acknowledge the line was removed from the book because of the political "climate," they deny their boss has changed his sentiment on his Massachusetts health care law and insist Perry is twisting the ex-governor's words. The fact-checkers at Politifact largely concurred with the Romney campaign's defense in their round-up of debate claims last week.
At Thursday's debate, Romney defended himself against Perry's charges by pointing to a 2007 interview with the Washington Post's Dan Balz, in which he said states should be "laboratories of democracy and each develop their own plan" rather than "having the federal government give us one-size-fits-all, everybody-must-follow-the-same-plan."
But as Balz noted in a follow-up last week, Romney, by then, knew the political baggage his health care plan could be—even though it wasn't then, as it is now, a major issue in the primary race.
In a statement today, Perry spokesman Mark Miner accused Romney of trying to "edit his past" on health care.
The danger for Romney is not simply in whether GOP voters buy Perry's claims that Romney has changed positions on health care. The bigger issue is whether it feeds into the larger questions among Republicans about Romney and authenticity, a subject that has dogged the ex-governor for years and looks to be a major liability heading into next year's campaign.