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David Goldman, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is confronted on his stance on gay marriage by Shannon Graves, right, of Summerville, S.C., during a campaign visit, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, in Summerville, S.C.

WALTERBORO, S.C. — Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry says the GOP will be better off airing concerns over Mitt Romney's business record now than letting Democrats exploit it this fall.

Perry tells The Associated Press that his criticism of Romney over businesses that failed under the control of his equity firm Bain Capital has gotten attention in South Carolina.

The Texas governor has felt blowback from conservatives who saw his criticism of what he called "vulture capitalism" as an affront to free-market values. A prominent Perry supporter has switched his allegiance to Romney over the issue.

In speeches the last two days, Perry has toned down his criticism of Romney, the front-runner for the GOP nomination. Perry says he stands by his point that Republicans should be about creating jobs, not destroying them.