(CNN) — Red state-blue state governors Rick Perry and Martin O’Malley debated job creation and healthcare on Wednesday, with Perry equating adding people to Medicaid via Obamacare with “putting tens of thousands on the Titanic knowing how it’s going to turn out.”
Both men are thought to be contenders for the White House in 2016 and on CNN’s “Crossfire,” they aired out some of the key issues that are likely to define their campaigns should they run.
Perry has been noncommittal about his plans to pursue the Republican nomination for a second time after the Texas governor’s campaign imploded last year. He showed none of the hesitation of 2012 on Wednesday night however, hammering home points about Texas job creation through limited government policies.
When challenged on the disproportionately large number of minimum wage jobs created in Texas along with the large number of Texans without health insurance, Perry stuck to his talking points.
“We’re about giving people freedom,” Perry said, the freedom to have a job and the freedom to choose whether or not they have health insurance.
Perry continually cited the businesses that have set up shop in Texas, including Amazon, Facebook and Toyota.
“They didn’t come there if they were worried about whether or not there was not going to be a skilled workforce, or people were going to have healthcare,” Perry said.
Perry and O’Malley clashed most sharply over jobs, in large part spurred by Perry’s media outreach aimed at poaching Maryland businesses.
In response to Texas’ business-friendly environment, O’Malley fell back on job-creation language coined by President Barack Obama.
Rather than Texas policies that seem to disproportionately create minimum wage jobs, Maryland has chosen to focus on “building an economy from the middle out,” O’Malley said, via things like improving education.
O’Malley, a Democrat, told Perry that Texas is “not an economy that is actually lifting up the middle class.”
The two came at their different positions with radically different statistics and perspectives.
O’Malley spoke of talent creation and entrepreneurship encouraged in Maryland while Perry trumpeted improving education standards and the various options Texans have for healthcare, although he didn’t elaborate.
Texas and Maryland have also taken polar opposite views on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislative achievement better known as Obamacare.
O’Malley has continued to hold up Maryland’s early adoption of Obamacare while Perry has refused federal money to expand Medicaid via the healthcare law.
Perry argued that expanding Medicaid and embracing Obamacare would ultimately end up costing Texas $100 billion.
Putting “tens of thousands of people on a system that is broken,” Perry said of adding them to Medicaid, is akin to “putting tens of thousands on the Titanic knowing how it’s going to turn out.”
In turn, O’Malley argued that the flexibility of the Obamacare healthcare exchanges that get underway next month, regardless of the inevitable hiccups in the system, will offer Maryland workers a competitive advantage – allowing them to move from job to job without worrying about losing their health insurance.