Mitt Romney went after Newt Gingrich’s background, and the former House speaker shot back that the only reason his Massachusetts rival “didn’t become a career politician is because you lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994.” As expected, the two leading Republican presidential candidates sparred early and often in Saturday night’s Iowa debate. "Losing to Teddy Kennedy was probably the best thing I could have ever done, because it put me back in the private sector," Romney said of his 1994 Senate loss. Ron Paul took aim at Gingrich’s Friday remark that Palestinians are an “invented” people, saying “that’s just stirring up trouble.” Former Mass. governor Romney said as president he would act soberly and not make such inflammatory comments. But he also drew attention -- while responding to Rick Perry's criticism of his 2006 health reform plan -- by challenging the Texas governor to a $10,000 bet. The Democratic National Committee immediately pounced on the wealthy Romney for that. The pivotal debate took place just 24 days before the 2012 voting begins in the Buckeye State.