At the beginning of the second hour of Tuesday night's debate in Hanover, New Hampshire, moderator Charlie Rose prompted each candidate to ask another candidate a question. More than half the candidates used the opportunity to take on Romney.
Herman Cain touted his own 9-9-9 tax plan as "simple, transparent, efficient, fair and neutral" and asked Romney if the former Massachusetts governor could name all 59 parts of his own economic plan and whether that plan was simple, transparent, efficient, fair and neutral.
"Herman, I’ve had the experience of my life of taking on some tough problems," Romney responded. "And I must admit that simple answers are always very helpful but oftentimes inadequate. And in my view, to get this economy going again, we’re going to have to deal with more than just tax policy and just energy policy, even though both of those are part of my plan." Romney cited the "seven pillars" of his 59-point plan, including stopping what he called the "regulatory creep" under the Obama administration and expanding international markets.
Next, Newt Gingrich focused on a very specific aspect of Romney's economic plan, the proposed capital gains tax cut for households with incomes under $200,000 a year. "Now, as a businessman, you know that you actually lose economic effectiveness if you limit capital-gains tax cuts only to people who don't get capital gains," Gingrich said. "So I'm curious: What was the rationale for setting an even lower base mark than Obama had?"
Romney stayed away from the substance of the question in his answer, noting only that he wants to give tax breaks to the middle class because that's "where the people are hurting the most."
"I'm not worried about rich people, they're doing just fine," Romney said. "The very poor have a safety net, they're taken care of. But the people in the middle, the hard-working Americans, are the people who need a break, and that's why I focus my tax cut right there."
Jon Huntsman asked how Romney could run as a job creator given his experience at Bain Capital--"destroy[ing] jobs as opposed to creating jobs." Romney said that Huntsman had mischaracterized his background and that his company "helped start businesses," ticking off well-known names like Staples and Sports Authority.
Texas governor Rick Perry, who has struggled in recent debates to effectively attack Romney on the latter's health care reforms in Massachusetts, took another shot at criticizing Romneycare. "Governor Romney, your chief economic adviser Glenn Hubbard...said that Romneycare was Obamacare," Perry said. "So my question for you would be, how would you respond to his criticism of your signature legislative achievement?"
Romney launched into his standard federalist defense of Romneycare and pointed out that Massachusetts currently has one percent of its children uninsured. In Texas, meanwhile, "you have a million kids uninsured," Romney said. He also reiterated his promise to repeal Obamacare as president.
Three other candidates had to answer questions from their Republican rivals. Cain, who has recently moved behind Romney in the national polls, took a question about the Federal Reserve from Ron Paul and another from Rick Santorum that was critical of his 9-9-9 plan. Bachmann questioned Perry on his support for Democrat Al Gore in 1988 and his record on spending as governor. Romney, meanwhile, asked Bachmann a token question about her plan to create jobs.