Candidates spar at GOP debate

ORLANDO, FL (WFLX) - Clearly, the GOP debate in Orlando on Thursday was a battle between the two front-runners, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.

Romney is continuing to tout his business experience, saying he wants to make everyone rich.

But a new forceful Rick Perry tried to paint Romney as too liberal to be allowed in a room full of Republicans.

With a crowd of Republicans sitting in floor seats - like at a concert - Mitt Romney continued his beating drum of smooth debate style and specific policy points.

The experienced presidential debater snuck a jab in on Perry, the ten-year governor.

"I happen to believe that to create a job, it helps to have had a job," said Romney.

But Gov. Perry had his own attacks on Romney ready.

After Romney called him a flip-flopper on Social Security, the governor of Texas, with hundreds of Tea Partiers watching, reminded them that before conservatives dubbed a requirement to buy health insurance through Obamacare, Romney signed a similar law in Massachusetts.

"In your hard copy book, you said it was exactly what the American people needed, to have that Romney-care given to them, as you had in Massachusetts. Then in your paperback, you took that line out," said Perry.

The candidates are modeling for the Republicans in the crowd, who will cast votes on Saturday in a straw poll that could give new momentum to some, and effectively end bids for others.

The issue Thursday night for them though, could be more than the issues: the main thing? Beating Obama.

"My overriding factor for me is going to be: who is electable?" asked Bill Abbatematteo of Charlotte County, Florida.

"They all have the same, but it's who I really think can pull it through." said Linda Henry of Jefferson County.

But Perry is betting that they want more than that.

Although polls say that Romney fares better in general election match-ups with the president, Perry may see Saturday's straw poll, and firm Tea Party support, as the most immediate, important things.

While much of the media has focused on the one-on-one battle between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney because they are so far ahead in the polls, some of the big applause lines went to Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul.

To show you the type of crowd that was in the debate hall, when Paul said the government shouldn't continue to run education, our economy or our lives, he brought the house down.

The next big test: Saturday's straw poll.

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