LITCHFIELD, N.H. — Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney suggested Monday that his new GOP rival, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, doesn't have the business experience needed to be president.
"Understanding how the economy works by having worked in the real economy is finally essential in the White House. And I hope people recognize that," Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, told reporters. "I respect the other people in this race, but I think the only other person who has that kind of extensive private sector experience besides me in the Republican race is Herman Cain," the former Godfather's Pizza chief executive.
Romney noted his 25 years in the private sector when asked about job growth in Texas under Perry, who has not held a private sector job as an adult, and the Texan's impact on the Republican presidential contest.
The GOP front-runner in national polls, Romney did not mention Perry by name when he made that comment but the contrast he drew was obvious and provided a window into how he would address Perry's emergence as a serious contender in the GOP race.
"I'm not going to vary my speech and my vision for the American people based upon the political winds of the day," Romney told reporters during a campaign appearance at Litchfield Technology. "I wish Rick the very best. As the process goes on, we'll see whose background and skill most fits the needs of the country at a critical time like this."
Romney also made what amounted to a verbal shrug at the weekend buzz over rival Michele Bachmann's first-place victory at the Iowa straw poll and Perry's formal announcement of a candidacy, saying that most voters simply aren't paying attention to politics in mid-August.
"For most Americans, the attention is focused on the election after Labor Day," he said.
Later, at the Common Man restaurant in Plymouth, Romney largely stuck to his strategy of assailing President Barack Obama on the economy. And following the lead of other Republican contenders, he encouraged the president to call Congress back early from its summer recess to address the fragile economy and high unemployment.
"The president this week is in three states on a bus tour. And he's going to be going on a vacation to Martha's Vineyard for 10 days. I wish the president were in Washington calling back Congress and dealing with the challenges we have," Romney said. "In some respects I think he's more concerned about keeping his job than spending the time necessary to help Americans get their jobs."