*(Via CNN) – Debate newcomer Texas Gov. Rick Perry (pictured) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney clashed over their job creation records, health care and Social Security at the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night.

“When I came in as governor, we were in a real free-fall,” Romney said. Unemployment was 4.7% when he left office, the former GOP front-runner said.

Perry said his opponent had a great record creating jobs in private business, but not so much as a political leader. The Texan said he helped create 1 million jobs in a decade. Romney countered that Texas had advantages over Massachusetts, including no income tax, the oil and gas industry and fewer unions.

The eight Republican hopefuls said President Barack Obama doesn’t understand how to fix the economy.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, a tea party favorite who won the Ames straw poll in Iowa last month, said health care reform legislation passed under Obama’s leadership is hurting job creation and should be repealed.

Romney criticized Perry over his anti-Washington book titled “Fed Up.” In it, Perry refers to Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme,” which could make him vulnerable to Democratic attacks in a general election campaign if he wins the Republican nomination.

“A candidate should be committed to saving Social Security,” Romney said.

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Watch Rick Perry and Mitt Romney spar when asked about the social security issue: