Debate wrap: Perry wants to be Tebow

Rick Perry (Credit: Fox News)

Rick Perry (Credit: Fox News)

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DENVER -- In the last Republican debate before next month's Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney was back to being his normal cool, calm and collected self.

Newt Gingrich, the frontrunner for the moment, was a pinata, taking fire from all sides.

And Rick Perry already written off, was Tim Tebow -- or, at least he wants to be.

"There are a lot of folks who said Tim Tebow wasn't going to be a very good NFL quarterback," Perry said, attempting to draw an analogy between himself and the current king of the comeback.

"There are people who stood up and said well he doesn't have the right throw mechanisms, or he's not playing the game right, and he won two national championships and that looked pretty good," Perry continued.

"We were the national champions of job creations back in Texas. And so am I ready for the next level? Let me tell you I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa Caucus."

That line lit up the Twittersphere, but Tebow himself is probably still more apt to win the Iowa caucuses than Perry.

Gingrich, whose support may be on the decline in Iowa after peaking there earlier this week, withstood attacks from nearly all of his rivals.

Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann landed the strongest punch when she went after Gingrich for his work as a lobbyist for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"I was trying to see these two entities put into bankruptcy, because they frankly need to go away, when frankly the Speaker had his hand out and was taking $1.6 million to influence senior Republicans to keep the scam going in Washington, D.C.," Bachmann said.

"That's absolutely wrong. We can't have as our nominee for the Republican party, someone who continues to for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. They need to be shut down, not built up."

Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator, made a play for social conservatives with thinly veiled attack on Gingrich's character as he subtly danced around the topic of Gingrich's three marriages.

"We need someone who's strong in their political and personal life to go out and contrast themselves with the President," Santorum said.

Gingrich was sharper on offense than defense, drawing strong applause for his statements attacking President Barack Obama over the Keystone XL Pipeline.

"The Canadian prime minister has already said to the president, if you don't want to build this pipeline to create twenty thousand American jobs, and bring oil through the United States to the largest refinery in the world, Houston, I'm going to put it straight west in Canada to Vancouver and ship the oil direct to China so you'll lose the jobs, you'll lose the through put, you'll use thirty or forty years of work in Houston," Gingrich said.

"The President of the United States cannot figure out -- I'm using mild words -- utterly irrational to say I'm now going to veto a middle class tax cut to protect left wing environmental extremists in San Francisco, so that we're going to kill American jobs, weaken American energy, make us more vulnerable to the Iranians and do so in a way that makes no sense to any normal, rational American."

Ron Paul, who's moved into third place in the latest Rasmussen Iowa poll, went after Gingrich over his work for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, but also drew fire himself for a foreign policy position that's far more isolationist than his GOP rivals.

As his rivals directed most of their fire at his top rival, Romney was back on his game, after a rare bad performance last Saturday night when he bet Perry $10,000.

When asked about his own political baggage, his work liquidating companies and laying people off at Boston's Bain Capital, Romney deftly turned the answer into an attack on President Obama.

"I think the president is going to level the same attack," Romney said, but that's how it works "in the real world, that the president has not lived in.

"I believe I've learned from my successes and my failures. The President I'll look at and say, 'Mr. President, how did you do when you were running General Motors as the President, took it over -- gee, you closed down factories, closed down dealerships'," Romney said.

"And he'll say, 'Well, I did that to save the business'. Same thing with us, Mr. President, same with us. We did our very best to make those businesses succeed. I'm pleased that they did, and I've learned the lessons about how the economy works.

"This President doesn't know how the economy works," Romney said. "I believe to create jobs, it helps to have created jobs."

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