On the Eve of Fox News Debate in Florida, Romney and Perry Spar Over Social Security

On the eve of the Fox News/Google presidential debate in Florida, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney continued lashing out at his rival, the front-running Texas governor Rick Perry, over a critical issue in the Sunshine State; Social Security.

With both National and Florida polls showing the race tightening between the two men, Romney ripped into Perry's claim that Social Security is a "ponzi scheme" that should be run by the states. "What would happen to the Social Security trust fund if you sent social security back to the states?" Romney asked during a town hall meeting in Miami on Wednesday. He added, "What happens, by the way, if people move from state to state? You consider all of the old people who retire to Florida. Would it be Florida's responsibility, to meet the Social Security needs of everyone who comes to Florida? That wouldn't work."

Romney says he would raise the retirement age for future beneficiaries and decrease cost-of-living increases for wealthy retirees. "I believe in Social Security... I want to protect it. I want to save it," said Romney.

Perry also spent Wednesday in South Florida, where he held a pair of private fundraisers, and did not respond to Romney in person but his campaign released a hard-hitting statement.

It reads, "Mitt Romney's own book compared Social Security to a criminal enterprise. Now Mr. Romney is again sounding like a Democrat, distorting the truth and trying to scare senior citizens. As he has so many times in the past, Mr. Romney seems to forget he's a Republican."

The Perry campaign statement also accuses Romney of not having a plan to actually fix Social Security. "Mr. Romney has been running for president full time for nearly five years, and has failed to issue a specific plan on Social Security. Rick Perry and other conservatives are courageous enough to be honest about federal spending and entitlements, whether Mr. Romney and the liberals like it or not," it said.

Romney and Perry will get another chance to duke it out at the FOX News/Google debate in Orlando, which airs on the Fox News Channel Thursday at 9pm ET.

Joining Romney and Perry on the stage will be Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, businessman Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.

Jake Gibson is a producer working at the Fox News Washington bureau who covers politics, law enforcement and intelligence issues.