AMES, Iowa -- The GOP presidential debate in Ames, Iowa turned heated Thursday night as candidates took repeated shots at one another and a few at the nation's commander in chief.
Minnesotans Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann squared off -- both fighting to be a top tier candidate and both finger pointing.
"You said the era of small government was over. That sounds a lot more like Barack Obama if you ask me," Bachmann charged.
The former Minnesota governor didn't take the jab lying down.
"She's got a record of misstating and making false statements," he shot back. "And that's another example of that."
Pawlenty also went after the front runner Mitt Romney and his healthcare plan.
"For Mitt or anyone else to say that there aren't substantial similarities, or they're not essentially the same plan, it just isn't credible," he said of the former Massachusetts governor.
"There's some similarities between what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did," he acknowledged. "But there are some big differences."
Surprisingly, debate moderators didn't spend much time on the sagging economy -- although some candidates threw zingers at Obama for failing to have an economic plan.
"If you can find Barack Obama's specific plan on any of those items, I will come to your house and cook you dinner," Pawlenty said.
Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich blasted the idea that a newly designed congressional super committee is going to help come up with a way to solve the country's debt crisis.
"What they ought to do is scrap the committee right now, recognize it's a dumb idea, (and) go back into legislative business," the former GOP House speaker said.
The stock market roller coaster ride this week has Americans nervous, but the candidates focused more on their economic talking points.
"It used to mean something when you read 'made in America.' We don't make things anymore in this country," former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said.
Businessman Herman Cain agreed.
"I don't know one company that sits around the board room and talks about how we're going to stay still. It's about growth," he said.
Other candidates, like Ron Paul and Rick Santorum sparred over Iran, especially when Ron Paul said the U.S. shouldn't enforce sanctions.
"Why would that be so strange if the soviets and the Chinese have nuclear weapons?" Paul challenged. "We tolerated the Soviets; we didn't attack them,"
"Iran is not Iceland, Ron," Santorum rejoined. "Iran is a country that has been at war with us since 1979."
Bachmann, who has spoken in the past of submission in marriage, was asked by debate moderator Byron York, "As President would you be submissive to your husband?"
"What submission means to us, if that's what your question is, it means respect," she explained. "I respect my husband. He's a wonderful, godly man and a great father. And he respects me, and he respects me as his wife."
The path for Romney and the other Republican candidates is going to get far more interesting the next time they're on a debate stage, which is scheduled to take place in September at the Reagan Library in California.
By that time, Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be in the race, and he's going to be an immediate contender. He's also sure to bring his Texas swagger and try and shake up the GOP race.