August 11, 2011 / 7:20 PM / 6 years ago

U.S. Republican Romney spars with hecklers in Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Republican Mitt Romney sparred on Thursday with a group of hecklers at the Iowa state fair who chanted “Wall Street greed” and interrupted his answers about the Social Security U.S. retirement program.

Romney, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, was taking questions from the crowd after a talk at the state fair when the heated exchange broke out over whether the wealthy should pay more into Social Security.

“If you don’t like my answer, you can vote for someone else,” Romney said as the hecklers repeatedly interrupted him with shouts. “I‘m not going to raise taxes, that’s my answer. If you want someone who will raise taxes, vote for Barack Obama.”

Romney was visiting the state fair before participating in a Thursday night debate with seven other Republican presidential contenders.

He said Social Security and the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs for the elderly and poor would have to be part of a long-term solution to the budget deficit.

“We have to make sure that the promises we make in Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are promises we can keep,” he said, rejecting a shouted suggestion that corporations should face higher taxes.

“Corporations are people, my friend,” said Romney, the former head of a private equity fund and the former governor of Massachusetts. “Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?”

Romney has touted his business background in the Republican race. He told the crowd he “didn’t inhale politics” while serving as governor.

He dismissed the hecklers at the end of the stormy session. “These guys up front won’t be voting for me,” he said. (Reporting by John Whitesides; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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