ABC’s Michael Falcone and Emily Friedman report:
HOPKINTON, N.H. — Mitt Romney typically plays nice with presidential rival Herman Cain. But at a town hall here on the eve of Tuesday’s presidential debate, Romney managed to slip in a subtle swipe.
Romney drew a contrast between his resume, which includes four years as governor of Massachusetts, and Cain’s, which does not include elected office. After talking about his experience going from Bain Capital to the governor’s mansion, Romney suggested that Cain was, perhaps, not quite as ready as he is for the Oval Office.
“I was able to find ways to use my skills in a public sector setting, probably something — if I were Herman — I’d say I wish I had that too because you don’t want to necessarily learn that for the first time as the president of the United States,” Romney said.
Romney’s jab at the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO came in response to a question from a college student who has asked Romney to contrast himself with Cain. It came on a day when a new poll of New Hampshire voters conducted by Harvard University and St. Anselm College showed Cain running in second place behind Romney, 38 percent to 20 percent.
On Monday, a Washington Post-Bloomberg poll also put Cain in second place behind Romney nationally among voters who lean Republican, 24 percent to 16 percent. The two polls suggest growing strength for Cain among Republicans across the country and in key primary states.
Though the Romney campaign spent much of the day trading fire with one-time GOP front-runner Rick Perry, Cain is looming larger in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. And in his remarks on Monday night Romney found reason to praise the businessman, who he called “a terrific guy.”
“Give him a good look,” Romney told his New Hampshire audience. “I’m not going to try to convince you that my private sector experience is better. Both Herman Cain and I spent our lives in private sector, and that’s probably why were doing so well.”
“Vote for either one of us and you’ll be fine,” he added.