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Front-runner Rick Perry plays the 'piñata' at GOP presidential debate

In his first presidential debate since entering the GOP field, Texas Gov. Rick Perry took most of the barbs from his fellow candidates on issues ranging from Social Security to jobs.

Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (l.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry answer a question during a Republican presidential candidate debate at the Reagan Library Wednesday, Wednesday, in Simi Valley, Calif.

Jae C. Hong/AP

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Those looking for presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Perry to spar tonight got their wish early on in the Republican debate Wednesday night.

The two men lashed out at each other’s records on job creation and set the tone for an evening that was largely focused on the two front-runners and their differences.

Mr. Romney defended his record as the former Massachusetts governor, as Texas Governor Perry touted his own achievements.

Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt,” Perry told Romney, who instantly snapped back: “George Bush and his predecessors created jobs at a faster rate than you did.”

And that was just the first 10 minutes.

It was Perry’s first debate since entering the race in August – and quickly taking the lead in the polls – and, as expected, he was the main focus of the evening, both from the moderators and his fellow debaters.

“I kind of feel like the piñata here at the party,” he quipped at one point.

Most notably, he continued to defend his statement that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme,” despite the bashing that the comment has taken in recent days from fellow Republicans.

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