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Romney warns Village residents of a 'Perry scheme'

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney returned to The Villages on Tuesday for a town hall meeting, where he was well-received by about 300 people at a recreation center. By Romney's count, it was at least his sixth visit to a three-county retirement mecca that he knows so well, he cheerfully recites its marketing slogan: "It's a beautiful day in the Villages."

But at the town hall, it wasn't a beautiful day for President Barack Obama -- or Texas Gov. Rick Perry, at the moment Romney's chief competitor for the Republican presidential nomination. Romney went through a familiar critique of how Obama's health care, taxes and regulations have driven the country into an economic ditch. "I will fix it. I will get it on track again," Romney said.

Before a casually-dressed crowd of Social Security recipients, Romney emphasized his support for the entitlement program, and tweaked Perry for his support of letting states run it.

"I happen to think that to fix Social Security, you have to believe in Social Security," Romney said. "I don't think the major problem is that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. I think the problem is keeping it from becoming a Perry scheme." The crowd erupted in laughter; Perry's campaign accused Romney of using Democratic-style "scare tactics."

About three dozen Democrats peacefully protested Romney's visit outside the rec center. Linda Dickson held a handmade sign that read, "Keep Social Security trust funds in the USA, not in Romney's offshore hedge fund." The reference was to Romney's support for allowing future recipients to invest Social Security funds in the stock market.

-- Steve Bousquet

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