Rick Perry and Mitt Romney accuse each other of scaring seniors

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Alex Pappas
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      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

TAMPA, Fla. — Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney accused each other of scaring seniors during a heated back-and-forth on Social Security at the GOP presidential debate on Monday.

The topic was the first of the night and a fiery debate between the two was expected. Both GOP presidential hopefuls have been sparring on the issue over the last week.

“The real question is, does Gov. Perry continue to believe that Social Security should not be a federal program, that it’s unconstitutional and should be returned to the states?” Romney said at the CNN-Tea Party Express debate. “How far is he going to retreat from that view?”

Referencing past comments from Perry, Romney also said: “The term ‘Ponzi scheme’ is over the top and unnecessary and frightful to many people.”

Perry quickly responded: “If what you’re trying to say is that back in the 30s and 40s that the federal government made all the right decisions, I disagree with you.”

The Texas governor also gave a “slam dunk guarantee that program is going to be there in place” for seniors and “individuals that are moving towards being on Social Security. That program is going to be there for them when they arrive there.” (RELATED: GOP candidates face tea party questions in Monday’s debate)

Perry said the candidates should discuss “ways to move the states into Social Security for state employees or for retirees.”

“I think those types of thoughtful conservations with America, rather than trying to scare seniors,” Perry said to Romney, “like you’re doing and other people. It’s time to have a legitimate conversation in this country about how to fix that program where it’s not bankrupt and our children actually know there’s going to be a retirement program for them.”

Romney responded to Perry’s accusation: “Governor, the term ‘Ponzi scheme’ is what scares seniors.”