Video: Under Attack, Perry Hits Back at Rivals in GOP Debate


gop-debate2[Full video below.] Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the GOP presidential front-runner, fended off pointed attacks from his rivals during Thursday night’s debate over his criticism of Social Security and his record on immigration.

Anticipating the attacks that came during his previous two debate appearances, Perry sought to put his rivals on the defensive at the Fox News-Google debate in Orlando.

Perry, who has faced repeated criticism from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme, said Americans who are in the government’s retirement program or close to joining it have nothing to worry about, because it won’t be dismantled.

“Now, it’s not the first time that Mitt has been wrong on some issues before,” Perry said, explaining that he only had said there should be an option to move from the current system to one operated by the states.

But Romney shot back that six months ago, Perry wrote in his book that the federal government shouldn’t be in the pension business and that it’s unconstitutional.

“So you better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that,” Romney said.

The other seven challengers who participated in the debate were looking to gain ground on the leading pair. They were Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, businessman Herman Cain, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former NewMexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

Johnson delivered what was perhaps the best-received line of the night when he attacked President Obama’s record on creating “shovel-ready” jobs.

“My next-door neighbor’s two dogs have created more shovel-ready jobs than this current administration,” he said to large laughter.

The Fox News-Google debate, hosted in conjunction with the Republican Party of Florida, enabled the viewing public to weigh in with votes on questions they wanted asked. More than 18,000 questions and 100,000 votes were submitted via text and videos to the website.

Fox News’ Bret Baier moderated, joined by Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace as panelists.

During the debate, Perry was attacked by Romney and Santorum for allowing certain illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates in Texas.

Romney calculated that the discount added up to $22,000 a year and nearly $100,000 over four years.

“If you are a United States citizen from any one of the other 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 or more,” he said. “That doesn’t make sense to me. That kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break.”

Perry defended his immigration record, saying that he has more experience than any other candidate on border security and that he supported Arizona’s strict immigration law that was mostly struck down by a federal court.

“But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought here by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart,” he said. “We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society.”

But Santorum wasn’t satisfied with that answer.

“Why are we subsidizing? Not that they can’t go,” he said. “They just have to borrow money, find other sources to be able to go. Why should they be given preferential treatment as an illegal in this country?” he said to cheers.

Santorum also slammed Perry for not backing a border fence and for saying in a 2001 speech that he supported binational health insurance between Mexico and Texas.

“I mean, I don’t think even Barack Obama would be for binational health insurance,” he said to laughs. “So I think he’s very weak on this issue of American sovereignty and protecting our borders and not being a magnet for illegal immigration.”

Perry asked Santorum if he had ever been to the border with Mexico.

“I’m surprised if you had,” Perry said as Santorum replied “yes.”

“But you weren’t paying attention, because the idea that you are going to build a wall, a fence for 1,200 mile and then go 800 miles more to Tijuana does not make sense,” he said. “You put the boots on the ground. We know how to make it work.”

Click below to watch a full video of the debate:

{Fox News/ Newscenter}