The Texas governor also made it clear he doesn't intend to take advice from Karl Rove, the former Bush political adviser who recently said some of Perry's rhetoric has been too controversial.
"Karl has been over the top for a long time now," he said.
The event was Perry's first opportunity to share a debate stage with his rivals since he joined the race last month and shot to the top of the public opinion polls. He displaced Romney as front-runner and stepped on the momentum that Bachmann had generated with her victory in a straw poll at the Iowa State Fair earlier in the summer.
A governor for more than a decade, he seemed at ease on stage in his campaign debut and moved quickly to assert his claim to having the best record of all on stage in creating jobs.
"We created 1 million jobs in the state of Texas at the same time the United States lost 2 million," he said, adding that the issue for the nation this election season is "who on this stage can get America working. Because we know for a fact that the resident of the White House cannot."
Romney threw the first jab of the evening, saying that being a career politician is a "fine profession" but not the same as having worked in the business world, as he did.
That was a reference to Perry, who moved quickly to counter.
He said Romney had indeed done well creating jobs in the business world, but "when he moved that experience to government, he had one of the lowest job creation rates in the country. ... As a matter of fact, we created more jobs in the last three months in Texas than he created in four years in Massachusetts."
Romney didn't exactly challenge that claim, but instead said Texas has no income tax, has a right-to-work law that makes it hard for unions to organize, plentiful oil and gas reserves and a Republican legislature. Massachusetts has none of those things, and he said he had turned the state's economy around.