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GOP debate: Romney says there are two Rick Perrys on Social Security

Half an hour into the Fox News-Google News debate, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney finally had their first skirmish — and to no one’s surprise, it came over Social Security.

Perry again tried to reassure current Social Security beneficiaries and those who soon would be eligible that they had nothing to worry about. And he accused Romney of distorting his past statements on the issue and suggesting he would like states to assume responsibility for the program.

“Not the first time Mitt’s been wrong on some issue,” Perry said. “We never said we were going to move that back to the states.”

Romney countered that Perry, in his recently released book, “Fed Up!,” called for just that — and that the program was “unconstitutional.” He suggested that another Rick Perry was on the loose.

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“You better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that,” Romney said, as the crowd hooted.

Perry then brought up Romney’s book “No Apologies” and accused him of softening a passage about the national prospects for the healthcare overhaul Romney backed while governor of Massachusetts.

As he did so, Perry joked softly that the back and forth was a bit like badminton.

“We were talking about Social Security, but if you want to talk about healthcare, I am happy to do that. In my book, I said no such thing,” Romney said. “It is a state plan ... not a national plan. It is fine for you to retreat from your own words in your own book, but please don’t make me retreat from the words that I wrote in my book. I stand by what I wrote and I believe in what I did, and I believe that the people of this country can read my book and see exactly what it is.”

After Perry accused Romney of supporting the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” program for education, Romney chuckled.

“Nice try,” he said to Perry.

But Romney went on to say, when pressed, that Education Secretary Arne Duncan had done well to push accountability for teachers.


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