Perry, Romney Tangle Over Social Security

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Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum during the pledge of allegiance as they prepare to debate during the event sponsored by CNN and The Tea Party Express at the Florida State fairgrounds on September 12, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. The debate featured the eight candidates ten days before the Florida straw poll.

It took 12 minutes before the first question in the GOP debate, but the fireworks came early. Mitt Romney, while agreeing that Social Security ought to be reformed, blasted Rick Perry for having referred to the program as a Ponzi scheme and suggested that Perry’s recent turn—saying it simply needed to be reformed—didn’t square with the view expressed in Perry’s book Fed Up! that the program was unconstitutional overall, as Perry refused to look at Romney. The two tangled further, citing rival quotes from each other’s books. Perry’s harsh words about Social Security and the New Deal played well with the audience of Tea Party activists in Tampa, but the exchange did little to answer Romney’s charge that calling Social Security unconstitutional could scare off general-election voters.