Romney, Perry Tussle Over Social Security Ahead of Florida Debate

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry have been trading barbs over Social Security in the days leading up to Thursday night's Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Fla.

At a town hall-style campaign stop in Miami Wednesday, Romney criticized Perry for calling Social Security “unconstitutional,” and for suggesting in his book, Fed Up, that the responsibility for income security for the elderly be left to the states.

Romney rattled off a series of questions for Perry.

“What would happen to the Social Security trust fund if you sent Social Security back to the states? How would it be divided? Would it be Florida's responsibility to meet the Social Security needs of everyone who comes to Florida? How would you deal with people moving all over the place? What happens if one of the states you lived in didn't have it? And what happens, by the way, if one of those states got in financial trouble, and raided their fund?” he asked.

A Perry spokesperson countered Romney's charge by accusing Romney of “flip-flopping” on Social Security and not having a plan on how to fix it.

“Mr. Romney has been running for president full time for nearly five years, and has failed to issue a specific plan on Social Security. Rick Perry and other conservatives are courageous enough to be honest about federal spending and entitlements, whether Mr. Romney and the liberals like it or not,” the spokesperson said.

Florida is a popular state for retirees and has a large senior population that relies upon Social Security.

Romney has criticized Perry in the previous two debates on Social Security. He warned that Perry might “frighten” seniors by referring to the program as a “Ponzi scheme” and “monstrous lie.”

Perry defended his position on Social Security in a USA Today editorial, saying Social Security should be made “financially sound and sustainable.”

Perry did not put forth any specific proposals to reform Social Security at the time, but wrote, “Americans must come together and agree to address the problems so today's beneficiaries and tomorrow's retirees really can count on Social Security for the long haul.”

Thursday's debate is hosted by Fox News and Google and will begin at 9 p.m. ET. Some of the questions will be chosen among those submitted via YouTube, a video sharing website owned by Google. Viewers will also be able to vote online on how well they think the candidates answered the questions.

The debate comes ahead of the Florida's Presidency 5 Straw Poll Saturday.

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