Rick Perry, Mitt Romney tell each other: Read my book!

Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, makes a comment as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, listens during a Fox News/Google debate Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Orlando, Fla. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry
Republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, makes a comment as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, left, listens during a Fox News/Google debate, Sept. 22, 2011, in Orlando, Fla.
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Updated at 11:25 p.m. ET

Perhaps Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney should take a second look at each other's books.

The two Republican presidential candidates reignited their battle over Social Security at a Florida debate Thursday, both citing what the other candidate put in print. Both Perry and Romney, however, said their positions were being mischaracterized.

For days, Romney has been attacking Perry for calling Social Security a "Ponzi scheme" in his book "Fed Up," and suggesting the program should be moved to the states.

Asked about Romney's charges today, Perry said, "It's not the first time Mitt's been wrong."

The bottom line, Perry said, was that he never suggested moving the popular government retirement plan to the states.

"For those people that are on Social Security today ... they don't have anything in the world to worry about," Perry said. The nation has made "a solemn oath to the people of this country" that Social Security will be there for them, Perry said. He said he has merely suggested giving citizens the option of entering state retiree programs.

Romney retorted that Perry's remarks were "different than what the governor put in his book."

"There's a Rick Perry out there saying... that the federal government shouldn't be in the pension business, that it's unconstitutional," Romney said. "You better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that."

The former Massachusetts governor continued to say that Social Security is a federal responsibility that should be more fiscally sound.

Perry took the opportunity to bring up Romney's book, "No Apology," noting that Romney altered the portion on health care in the paperback version.

As the Boston Phoenix reported earlier in the year, the original version of Romney's book laid out the nuances between the Massachusetts health care law and the nationwide plan implemented by President Obama. In the second version released last year, Romney blamed the Massachusetts state legislature and the new Democratic governor, Deval Patrick, for botching the state plan's implementation. He also pushed back harder against Mr. Obama's health care plan, calling for its repeal.

At Thursday's debate, Perry charged that Romney initially wrote that the Massachusetts health care plan should be expanded to the rest of the country.

Romney said, "I said no such thing," and said the Massachusetts plan he implemented was strictly a state plan.

Taking a swipe at Perry's book, Romney added, "I actually wrote my book."

Later in the debate, Perry continued to charge that Romney has been inconsistent on a range of issues.

"I think Americans just don't know sometimes which Mitt Romney they're dealing with," he said. "Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment?... He was for Race to the Top, he's for Obamacare, and now he's against it. I mean, we'll wait until tomorrow and see which Mitt Romney we're really talking to tonight."

Romney declared himself a consistent, "conservative businessman."

"My positions are laid out in that book. I stand by them," he said. "Governor Perry, you wrote a book six months ago. You're already retreating from the positions that were in that book."

Perry attempted to protest, but Romney continued, "There are a lot of reasons not to elect me, a lot of reasons not to elect other people on this stage, but one reason to elect me is that I know what I stand for, I've written it down. Words have meaning, and I have the experience to get this country going again."

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