Mitt Romney’s Republican rivals, including Gov. Rick Perry, descended this week on what is essentially his home turf and they are ready to challenge the former Massachusetts governor on the economy, his central campaign theme, in a Tuesday night debate focused on that issue.
"Even the richest man can't buy back his past," Texas Gov. Rick Perry's campaign said in a web video that describes Romney as the inspiration for President Barack Obama's national health care overhaul that conservatives detest and questions Romney's assertion that he is a "conservative businessman."
Tuesday's debate was designed to be on the economy -- voters' top concern in a nation that recorded 9.1 percent unemployment last month -- but there was scant chance Romney would be able to dodge questions about his record.
Perhaps mindful of that, Romney referenced Perry's web video at a campaign event Monday.
"For some people in campaigns their process is one of obfuscation and bewilderment," Romney said while visiting a VFW hall. "You're going to find in a campaign like this people running against me who will take what I said and try to say something else. There's an ad out there today that does that."
Perry has tried to pitch himself as an alternative to Romney, who signed into law a health care mandate as Massachusetts governor that conservatives loathe.
However, he stumbled in his early attempt: Perry flubbed a practiced criticism during his last debate.
Yet, his rivals note, Romney hasn't faced steady nasty attacks here on television. His chief opponent four years ago, Sen. John McCain, didn't have the campaign cash to buy the commercials.
That is not the case now.
Perry is sitting on $15 million and his campaign signaled their anti-Romney ads were almost certain to start soon.
The Bloomberg/Washington Post Republican Presidential Debate in Hanover, N.H., starts at 7 p.m. North Texas time and can be seen and heard on Bloomberg Television, Bloomberg Radio, Bloomberg.com as well as PostPolitics.com.
Also participating in the debate; Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann , businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
The official hashtag for the debate on Twitter is #econdebate.
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