ORLANDO â€”Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tangled over Social Security, health care and other issues here Thursday in a debate in which the Republican presidential candidates sharply criticized the policies of President Obama and joined in an assault on the federal government.
Romney pressed Perry to explain whether he would dismantle Social Security as a federal program and turn it over to the states, as he has suggested. Perry countered that he would preserve the program for those on it or near retirement and fix it for younger workers. He said he would support a limited role for states to manage retirement security for state employees.
â€œThereâ€™s a Rick Perry out there that is saying â€” and almost to quote, it says that the federal government shouldnâ€™t be in the pension business, that itâ€™s unconstitutional. Unconstitutional and it should be returned to the states,â€ Romney said. â€œSo you better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that.â€
The attacks by Romney and others signaled the desire of Perryâ€™s opponents to blunt the Texas governorâ€™s early momentum in the battle for the GOP nomination and followed a pattern from two debates earlier this month.
Perry found himself on the defensive intermittently throughout Thursdayâ€™s two-hour exchange, including over his support for mandatory vaccinations for young girls against a sexually transmitted virus.
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