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Bachmann, Pawlenty clash in heated debate

Aug 11, 2011, 10:56 p.m.
U.S. Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney (L), Michele Bachmann (C) and Tim Pawlenty attend the Republican presidential debate in Ames, Iowa August 11, 2011. REUTERS/Charlie Neibergall/Pool

JOB CREATION

The candidates all welcomed Perry to the race but had little to say about his candidacy. A staunch social and religious conservative, Perry has a strong job creation record that could cut into Romney's support among the party's pro-business wing.

The debate was the debut on the national stage of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who defended his time as U.S. ambassador to China under Obama. "I'm proud of my service to the country," he said.

Former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich condemned some of the questions from the moderators, accusing them of asking "Mickey Mouse" and "gotcha" questions.

All of the contenders battered Obama after last week's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and days of wild mood swings on Wall Street. "We have, unfortunately, as a leader of this country a man who is out of his depth," Romney said.

Businessman Herman Cain and U.S. Representative Ron Paul also participated in the debate.

Romney warmed up for the debate during a morning visit to the Iowa state fair in Des Moines, where he had a heated exchange with hecklers who pressed him on what he would do to strengthen the Social Security retirement system.

They shouted and chanted "Wall Street greed" as he tried to answer. "If you don't like my answer, you can vote for someone else," Romney said. "I'm not going to raise taxes, that's my answer." He rejected a shouted suggestion that corporations should face higher taxes.

"Corporations are people, my friend," said Romney, the former head of a private equity fund. "Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?"

(Additional reporting by Kim Dixon; Editing by Todd Eastham and Sandra Maler)

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