• With: James Freeman, Dan Henninger, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Bret Stephens

    FREEMAN: They're now rebelling in different parts of the country, representing different constituency, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Mark Begich in Alaska.

    GIGOT: The oil and gas.

    FREEMAN: Don't tax the oil industry. Even John Kerry in Massachusetts saying, I don't think is going to fly, at least not in the current form. It's a political strategy and he seems to be --

    (CROSSTALK)

    HENNINGER: Yes, look at proposals on individual rates. His definition of millionaire is somebody making, single, $200,000, $250,000. Who is objecting to this? Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, saying the cost of living in New York is so much higher than in Mississippi, there should be a differential. Look, some of those people making that money are, in fact, Democrats, and do give money to the Democratic Party. Even in its design, it insults people. If he had just raised marginal rates or done a surtax, people go, well, I'm willing to pay my fair share. He's reducing their deductions and their exemptions. He's giving it to them in the neck and they're infuriated, and that's what Chuck Schumer is hearing.

    GIGOT: All right, last answer, Dan.

    When we come back, it was their third debate in as many weeks, and this time, Rick Perry stepped up his attacks on chief rival, Mitt Romney. Did it work?

    (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

    GIGOT: Nine GOP presidential candidates took the stage Thursday night at the Fox News/Google debate in Orlando, Florida. It was their third debate in 16 days. And once again, the two frontrunners, Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, squared off.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    PERRY: I think Americans just don't know sometimes which Mitt Romney they're dealing with. He's for Obamacare and now he's against it. I mean, we will wait until tomorrow and see which Mitt Romney we're really talking to tonight.

    (APPLAUSE)

    DEBATE MODERATOR: Governor Romney?

    MITT ROMNEY, R-FORMER MASS. GOVERNOR & PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll use the same term again, nice try. Governor, I wrote a book two years ago and I laid out in that book what my views are, on a wide range of issues. I'm a conservative businessman. I haven't spent my life in politics. I spent my life in business. I know how jobs come, how jobs go. My positions are laid out in that book. I stand by them.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    GIGOT: We're back with Dan Henninger and Jason Riley. And Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz, joins the panel.

    GIGOT: So, Jason, Rick Perry once again the main target for many of the other candidates. Did he do better this time?

    RILEY: I still don't think he's given a debate performance that justifies his frontrunner status in the race. That's for sure. He can't seem to land a solid punch on Romney. I think that Romney has become a better debater than four years ago, so it's not entirely Rick Perry's fault.

    But as we saw in that piece, he's struggling with the attack lines.

    (CROSSTALK)

    RILEY: They're not exactly rolling off the tongue there.

    (LAUGHTER)

    And it's frustrating because Romney is vulnerable on some very serious issues. his defense of Social Security, I think, is subject to -- could be subject to attack by Perry, if Perry could articulate a proper response. And then, of course, there's Romneycare. Why isn't Rick Perry pointing to Obama administration officials who cite Romneycare as a justification for -- or a template for Obamacare?

    GIGOT: Dorothy, Rick Perry has been in the series (ph) two or three times in the last couple of years.

    DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Yes.

    GIGOT: We've seen him for an hour or more. Is this the same Rick Perry that we've seen in those meetings?

    RABINOWITZ: Magically, you've touched on the exact point. The trouble with Rick Perry, in public, is he's not the Rick Perry that we see in private. The Rick Perry we see, with that aggie (ph) ring standing there --

    (LAUGHTER)

    RABINOWITZ: -- this military man, is one tough customer. And the first impression you get is, not only does he look tough, he is tough. What happens when you put him in the public arena? He becomes an inhibited person, suppressing all of that arrogance because he thinks this it wasn't necessary. And this makes him constricted performance.

    GIGOT: Over handled by the political advisors, stuffing him with this or that.

    RABINOWITZ: Possibly. You can't conceal who you really are. And here he is, being this nice guy, smiling over these assaults on him. Whereas, when you confront him at some -- across some table, you don't want a fight with this guy.

    GIGOT: What about Mitt Romney, Dan? He certainly is practiced, as Jason says.

    HENNINGER: He's very practiced, Paul. But I have to say, I was put off by his performance last night on the substance. His opening remark about -- when he was responding nominally to the question about our editorial on jobs, at the end of it, he said, we have to crack down on China's trade practices. And his definition of the middle class, more or less, come ports with Barack Obama's. He's going to raise -- not give a tax cut to people making over $250,000.

    On issue after issue, it seems to me that Mitt Romney was just responding in a way that comports with opinion polls. If he's done an opinion poll or a focus group and you've got 60 percent of the people holding a position, that's where Mitt Romney is going to be. I just felt that his answers screamed polling and that it does make you wonder, in fact, what kind of a campaigner, what kind of leadership he's going to provide.

    GIGOT: Go ahead.

    RABINOWITZ: Here is the thing. the fact that is true, which I agree with, is apart from the fact that he does this with so much assurance now, so much improved assurance, so much sense of authenticity, even falsely achieved authenticity --

    (LAUGHTER)

    RABINOWITZ: -- that it's impressive, comparatively speaking.

    RILEY: He looks very presidential.

    RABINOWITZ: Yes.