Mitt Romney: Vote for me or Herman Cain, we have business experience

Rachel Rose Hartman

HOPKINTON, N.H.-- Herman Cain's recent surge in the polls has led many to suggest the former Godfather's Pizza CEO is simply the "flavor of the week" in the 2012 race. But former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suggested Monday night he's taking Cain's candidacy quite seriously.

Asked during a town hall Hopkinton, N.H. to explain why Romney's business experience is "better" than Cain's--Romney famously founded successful private equity firm Bain Capital-- Romney made a point of treading very lightly.

"Vote for either one of us and you'll be happy," Romney told the audience, which was mostly comprised of exuberant local fans.

"I'm not going to try to convince that my private-sector experience is better than his," Romney replied matter-of-factly. "I'm going to tell you what I did, and then you can look at his background and make a decision."

Romney called Cain a "terrific guy" and positioned himself next to his competitor. "The key thing is that both Herman and I spent our careers in the private sector and I think that's one of the reasons both of us are doing pretty well in terms of public support."

Romney on Monday did nothing to undermine or disparage Cain's business experience--but he did point out that he, not Cain, has the added knowledge that comes with serving in office. That meant, Romney argued, that he has already applied his own business experience to the challenges of the public sector.

"That's probably something that if I were Herman, I'd say 'I wish I had that too,' " Romney said, in reference to his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. "Because you don't want to necessarily learn that for the first time as president of the United States."

A Washington Post/Bloomberg poll released this week showed Cain inching up to second place behind Romney. Romney received 22 percent support from Leaned Republicans and Cain received 20 percent. The margin of error for the sample used for that question was 6 percentage points.

Romney remains a favorite son in New Hampshire due to his prior service in the neighboring state of Massachusetts.

The two candidates will appear together Tuesday night with several of their GOP competitors to debate at a forum co-hosted by the Washington Post and Bloomberg at Dartmouth College.

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