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Mitt Romney's $10,000 Bet to Rick Perry Sparks Criticism Around the Web

Maddow on ... Mitt Romney
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The GOP presidential hopeful is drawing some strong reactions for challenging his rival to a pricey wager during ABC's televised Republican debate in Iowa.

Multimillionaire Mitt Romney is again being accused of being out of touch with middle-class America after Saturday night's televised GOP debate in Iowa.

After rival Rick Perry claimed Romney had supported national healthcare reform in a passage in his book, No Apology, that had been removed in the paperback edition, Romney fired back. He brought in healthcare reform to Massachusetts as governor -- similar to President Barack Obama's national healthcare proposal -- but he denies ever saying his healthcare plan in one state could work nationwide.

"Rick, I'll tell you what: $10,000 bucks? Ten thousand bet?" Romney said, extending his hand to shake on the bet.

Perry paused before responding, "I'm not in the betting business, but I will show you the book."

The bet became a huge topic online almost instantly. Within an hour, the Twitter hashtag #what10Kbuys, which had been started by the Democratic National Committee, was trending across the globe, according to ABC News.

Meanwhile, pundits weighed in after the debate, and opted to focus more on Romney's audacity to wager such a nominal figure as opposed to the content of the bet itself.

"For someone to go and throw around a $10,000 bet, just goes to show even more that he's not the same level as the people of Iowa or the country," Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for another candidate, Michele Bachmann, told ABC.

Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney's press spokesman, said the former Massachusetts governor was only trying to make a point, not make a serious bet. "I've made bets with friends and family for one million," Fehrnstrom said. He added that Romney only made the bet to prove that Perry wouldn't take it, saying, "This guy was wrong. It was a phony allegation."

After Romney attempted to make the wager, his offhanded remark went viral online, with "#what10kbuys" trending on Twitter.

"That's the language of Wall Street and not the language of Main Street Iowa," Robert Haus, co-chairman for Perry's Iowa campaign, told reporters after the ABC debate.

"I don't know anybody that carries that kind of money around with them," said Iowa house majority leader Linda Upmeyer (Newt Gingrich's Iowa campaign chairwoman). "When I make a bet with somebody, it's usually for the five dollars I have in my hand and we lay it down and we bet."

Bob Vander Plaats, a conservative leader from Sioux City, Iowa, who has previously criticized Romney’s candidacy, echoed that sentiment to the Des Moines Register.

“No matter what number he came up with, it just played into his image that he’s in a realm that most Iowans can’t relate to,” he said. 

Another rival candidate, Jon Huntsman, who did not participate in the Iowa debate Saturday, created the website 10kbet.com after the debate. The site, complete with articles, videos and tweets, seeks to explain why "Mitt Romney Owes Rick Perry $10,000."

Former Obama White House aide Bill Burton, spokesman for PrioritiesUSA, a group supporting Obama's re-election, also chimed in, via Twitter.

"Not a lot of 99%'ers are out there making $10,000 bets," he wrote.

Burton also told Reuters via e-mail: "It is predictable that Mitt Romney will slip up and let folks in on who he is from time to time. Corporations are people, joking about being unemployed and now this. Mitt Romney has no clue what pain the American middle class is feeling right now."

Romney has failed to connect with some voters, partly because of his enormous net worth. While fundraising for the 2008 campaign, Romney reportedly spent $42 million of his own money.