Mitt Romney says he meant it as a joke, a kind of verbal eye-roll, a way to smack down Rick Perry for a specious attack on his position on the dreaded individual mandate for health care.
But Romney’s offer to bet Perry $10,000 that he was wrong, made in the heat of battle in Saturday’s nationally televised Republican debate, has boomeranged big time, allowing Democrats and Republican opponents alike to mock the multimillionaire Romney, a former investment banker, as out of touch with real people.
It seemed to be the takeaway moment from the ABC News debate broadcast from Des Moines, three weeks before the Iowa caucuses, and the attacks were continued Monday, as the Democratic National Committee photo-shopped a $10,000 bill with Romney’s face on it and fired it off around the Web.
Perry’s campaign launched a web ad saying “the truth isn’t for sale” and the Texas governor, who grew up in a home with no indoor plumbing, said he couldn’t imagine an average Iowan being able to bet $10,000 on anything.
Seeking to counter it, Romney even told an audience about how he had to defecate in a bucket while working as a Mormon missionary in France as a young man.
From New York magazine: "A number of the apartments I lived in when I lived there didn’t have toilets,” Romney said a New Hampshire crowd Sunday evening. “We had instead the little pads on the ground -- ok, you know how that works, all right. There was a chain behind you with a bucket, it was a bucket affair. I had not experienced one of those in the united states. Most of the apartments I lived in had no refrigerators. I don’t recall any of them having a refrigerator. We shopped before every meal. Most of the apartments I lived in had no shower or bathtub, in some cases there were buildings that had showers. You go in, you pay a couple of francs, and you could get a shower. We’d do that once a week. Or if we were lucky, we actually bought a hose and we stuck it on the sink and wed hold there with the hose and the big bucket underneath us in the kitchen and wash ourselves that way.”

(For what it’s worth fact-checking sites pointed out that Perry was wrong when he claimed that Romney had changed his memoir to remove his belief that an individual mandate to buy health insurance, a part of his health-care plan as Massachusetts governor, should be adopted nationwide.)