By Lauren Leamanczyk, WBZ-TV's New Hampshire Bureau Chief

LITCHFIELD, N.H. (CBS) – The race for the White House heated up over the weekend and Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney finds himself with some new competition.

Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the race Saturday and instantly was being touted as a serious challenger to Romney. The two traded scuffled a bit Monday, the first day both were on the campaign trail.

Rick Perry blew a kiss to TV cameras intended for Mitt Romney and said, “Give him my love.”

The gesture came after the two traded barbs from across the nation on their jobs records.

WBZ-TV’s Lauren Leamanczyk reports

Mitt Romney told reporters in Litchfield, New Hampshire that of the leading candidates, he’s the only one with extensive private sector experience.

“I think understanding how the economy works by having worked in the real economy is finally essential in the White House. I hope people recognize that,” Romney said, clearly trying to differentiate himself from Gov. Perry and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Romney didn’t criticize Perry directly and wished him well. But Perry, campaigning in Iowa, shot back.

“Running a state is different from running a business,” he said. “Take a look at his record when he was governor. Take a look at my record when I was governor,” Perry argued.

The jabs over jobs signal a tightening Republican race. Patrick Griffin a senior fellow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics says Romney’s still the frontrunner, but Perry and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann both picked up steam this weekend.

“All this talk in Ames about making Barack Obama a one term president. The question is which one of these candidates can do that,” Griffin observed. “Right now this is a war for electability between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.”

In 2012 electability is all about the economy. And that’s the case these hopefuls will make in New Hampshire and across the country.

“As the process goes on we’ll see whose background and skill most fits the needs of the country at a critical moment like this,” Romney said.


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