Republicans spar before the debate


Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 2:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 2:51 p.m.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee criticized rival Mitt Romney's past as a venture capitalist Thursday, saying some workers lost their jobs as a result.

In 1983, Romney founded Bain Capital, a firm that developed a reputation for turning around ailing companies and earned him millions of dollars. Asked about Romney's experience, Huckabee said the former Massachusetts governor's success came at the expense of workers.

"If that's the turnaround, a lot of Americans would not want to see their lives turned around like that," the former Arkansas governor told reporters before running with a group of supporters about four miles along sun-drenched Fort Lauderdale beach.

Romney defended the takeovers during a Fox News interview on Sunday: "We grew jobs quite dramatically in many settings. But oftentimes, when an enterprise is in real trouble, you have to try and cut back to save it."

The experience made Romney better suited to lead the country out of its economic slowdown, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said Thursday.

"Hard decisions had to be made, but the goal was always to restore fiscal health," he said.

Huckabee's criticism comes as Romney has emphasized his business experience on the campaign trail and tried to paint himself as the candidate who can fix Washington and repair the U.S. economy.

"There are a lot of people who are losing their jobs. They want to know what are we going to do to bring jobs to America, not what are we going to do to bring huge amounts of capital to a few and a huge job loss to a whole lot of Americans," Huckabee told reporters after completing his run.

Huckabee's remarks came hours before he, Romney and other GOP presidential hopefuls were scheduled to debate at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

Recent polls place Huckabee near the bottom of the Republican field in Florida, but he said he still hopes to finish at or near the top in Tuesday's primary. He rejected suggestions that he has all but given up on Florida, calling it "utterly nonsense."

MSNBC will broadcast the two-hour debate at Florida Atlantic University. It will be on Thursday from 9 to 11 p.m. EST.

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