Rick Perry was smart to say he's not in the betting business.
Mitt Romney's $10,000 health care wager at a Republican presidential debate in Iowa on Dec. 10, 2011 had pundits declaring him "rich, elite, and out of touch." ("Romney bombed with a bet"!)
But was he right on the merits?
The subject of bet-worthy disagreement was well-worn territory: The Texas governor declared that Romney's book No Apology called his Massachusetts health care law "the model for the country," including its individual mandate that people buy health insurance.
That is, until the line was deleted from a later version of the book, Perry said.
Perry kept up the familiar refrain on the next day's Fox News Sunday:
"The issue of individual mandates is still at the center here, and Mitt can deny this as many times as he wants, but in his first book, hardcover, of No Apologies, he clearly stated that individual mandate should be the model for this country. And then he took that out of the book, in the paperback, and that's the fact, and even a $10,000 bet is not gonna cover that."
PolitiFact has peeked into Perry's book claims before, so we were ready to rule on this one.
In a September debate, Perry accused Romney of removing a line that the Massachusetts health care law was exactly what the American people needed. We found that claim Mostly False.
In this debate, Perry focused his rhetoric on the "individual mandate" — a controversial requirement of President Barack Obama's federal health care law that everyone buy health insurance. It was also part of Romney's state health care law.
Perry said that both Romney and Newt Gingrich "have been for the individual mandate."
Romney fired back that "as (House) speaker, Gingrich said that he was for a federal individual mandate. That's something I've always opposed. What we did in our state was designed by the people in our state for the needs of our state. You believe in the 10th Amendment. I believe in the 10th Amendment."
Soon, the wager war broke out:
PERRY: "Well, I'm listening to you, Mitt, and I'm hearing you say all the right things. But I read your first book, and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts, which should be the model for the country -- and I know it came out of the reprint of the book, but, you know, I'm just saying, you were for individual mandates, my friend."
ROMNEY: "You know what, you've raised that before, Rick. And you're simply wrong."
PERRY: "It was true then ..."
ROMNEY: "No, no ..."
PERRY: "And it's true now."
ROMNEY: "Rick, I'll tell you what ..."
ROMNEY: "... 10,000 bucks? $10,000 bet?"
PERRY: "I'm not in the betting business ..."
ROMNEY: "Oh, okay."
PERRY: "... but I'll show you the"
ROMNEY: "I wrote the ..."
PERRY: "I'll show you the book."
ROMNEY: "I've got the book and ..."
ROMNEY: "And I wrote the book. And I have it. And Chapter 7, there's a section called "The Massachusetts Model," and I say as close, as I can quote, I say, in my view, each state should be able to fashion their own program for the specific needs of their distinct citizens.
"And then I go on to talk about the states being the laboratories of democracy, and we can learn from one another. I have not said in that book, first edition or the latest edition, anything about our plan being a national model imposed on the nation. The right course for America -- and I've said this during the debates last time around; I'll say it now and time again -- is to let individual states -- this is a remarkable nation. This idea of federalism is so extraordinary. Let states craft their own solutions. Don't have ObamaCare put on us by the federal government."
Who got it right, Perry or Romney?
What the books say
Perry's grievance is with differences between hardcover and paperback editions of Romney's book. We've combed through Chapter 7 of both.
Romney's changes to the book have been explored before, by Boston political journalist David S. Bernstein. He noted in February 2011 that Romney had added harsher language on the national health care law as passed: "Obamacare will not work and should be repealed," and, "Obamacare is an unconstitutional federal incursion into the rights of states."
Romney more clearly explained ways that he disagreed with implementation of the Massachusetts law.
He also changed this line, which came after a paragraph touting the success of the Massachusetts health plan:
Hardcover: "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care."
Paperback: "And it was done without government taking over health care."
The deleted 11 words, "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country" are the crux of Perry's argument. His campaign sent e-mail the day after the debate with a link highlighting precisely that change.
It looks suspicious, right? Perhaps Romney did extol every piece of his Massachusetts plan, individual mandate and all, for every state in the union.
But here's the original quote with full context from Page 177 of the hardcover:
"My own preference would be to let each state fashion its own program to meet the distinct needs of its citizens. States could follow the Massachusetts model of they choose, or they could develop plans of their own. These plans, tested in the state 'laboratories of democracy' could be evaluated, compared, improved upon, and adopted by others. But the creation of a national plan is the direction in which Washington is currently moving. If a national approach is ultimately adopted, we should permit individuals to purchase insurance from companies in other states in order to expand choice and competition.
"What we accomplished surprised us: 440,000 people who previously had no health insurance became insured, many paying their own way. We made it possible for each newly insured person to have better care, and ultimately healthier and longer lives. From now on, no one in Massachusetts has to worry about losing his or her health insurance if there is a job change or a loss in income; everyone is insured and pays only what he or she can afford. It's portable, affordable health insurance — something people have been talking about for decades. We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care."
Romney's not really saying the Massachusetts law "should be the model for the country," the way that Perry describes it. He's in fact presenting a defense of state-level choice. It's like a shout-out to other state leaders: Hey, you can have what Massachusetts has!
And it's consistent with what Romney fired back at Perry in the Sept. 22, 2011 debate: "This is a state plan for a state, it is not a national plan." And with how he characterized his own book in the most recent debate: "I say, in my view, each state should be able to fashion their own program for the specific needs of their distinct citizens."
Romney did support Massachusetts' individual mandate. But we don't see evidence in his hardcover book that he supported a federal one, much less that he removed such a reference from later editions.
Perry's right that Romney's comments about health care were edited between editions. Among other things, a line that advocated the Massachusetts model as a strong option for other states was replaced by a shorter, more generic sentence. But that line was preceded by an argument for state-level solutions, exactly the argument Romney extends now. That's not how Perry characterized it. So he did win that bet — by not betting. We rule his claim Mostly False.