(Reuters) - Republican presidential hopeful Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney sparred over who did a better job at promoting employment in a testy exchange at a debate on Wednesday night.
Since entering the race just weeks ago to unseat Democratic President Barack Obama, Perry has knocked Romney off his front-runner perch and is now leading in the polls.
Here are snippets from the exchange moderated by NBC news anchor Brian Williams.
PERRY: Well, Governor Romney left the private sector, and he did a great job of creating jobs in the private sector all around the world. But the fact is, when he moved that experience to government, he had one of the lowest job creation rates in the country. So the fact is, while he had a good private-sector record, his public-sector record did not match that. As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in the last three months in Texas than he created in four years in Massachusetts.
WILLIAMS: Well, let's widen this out and let's bring in Mr. (Herman) Cain on one side.
ROMNEY: Wait a second. ... Listen, wait a second.
WILLIAMS: We could do this all evening.
ROMNEY: States are different. Texas is a great state. Texas has zero income tax. Texas has a right-to-work state, a Republican legislature, a Republican Supreme Court. Texas has a lot of oil and gas in the ground.
Those are wonderful things, but Governor Perry doesn't believe that he created those things. If he tried to say that, well, it would be like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet.
ROMNEY: Look, the reality is, there are differences. There are differences between states. I came into a state that was in real trouble -- a huge budget gap, losing jobs every month. We turned it around. Three out of four years, we had unemployment rate below the national average, we ended up with 4.7 percent unemployment rate. I'm proud of what we were able to do in a tough situation.
PERRY: (Former Massachusetts Governor) Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt.
ROMNEY: Well, as a matter of fact, George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.
PERRY: That's not correct.
ROMNEY: Yes, that is correct.
(Reporting by Kim Dixon; Editing by Peter Cooney)