Republican Rick Perry vowed to rebuild the US economy the way he managed a Texas boom in a US presidential debate on Thursday where he sought to put more distance between himself and rival Mitt Romney.
Perry, Romney and seven other candidates took the stage in the latest debate aimed at helping Republicans decide who they want as their nominee to face Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 2012 election.
On a day the stock market plunged on fears of renewed recession, the US economy was the top topic and all candidates promised conservative prescriptions and declared Obama's economic leadership a failure.
Perry said what has worked in Texas is a lower tax burden, fair regulatory climate and limited government interference, but demurred when asked for specific details.
"If it'll work in the state of Texas, it'll work in Washington DC," Perry said.
"And that's exactly what I'm going to bring to Washington when I get there in ... January of 2013."
Perry is quick to take credit for an improved Texas economy although he has faced criticism that many of the jobs created on his watch paid low-wages.
Republicans increasingly see a good chance to oust Obama from the White House with the US economy struggling to rebound from 9.1 percent unemployment and chronic debt and deficits.
So far Perry, the Texas governor and Tea Party movement favorite, holds the front-running position but his lead is considered fragile over Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and the choice of many mainstream Republicans. A USA Today/Gallup poll on Wednesday found Perry leading Romney 31 percent to 24 percent among likely Republican voters.
Former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, who is struggling to break through to the front-runners, was forced to defend his support for clean energy tax credits that have been called into question after the collapse of Solyndra, a solar panel company that received $500 million in government stimulus money backed by Obama.
"We've learned that subsidies don't work," said Huntsman, saying a "bridge product" is needed to help wean Americans slowly off of foreign oil.