|Republican presidential candidates are only three months away from the first primary in New Hampshire [Reuters]
Republican presidential hopefuls have discussed the economy during a televised debate in the state of New Hampshire.
They criticised President Barack Obama and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, during Tuesday's debate, accusing them of mismanaging the struggling economy.
"It was the federal government that demanded that banks and mortgage companies lower platinum level lending standards to new lows," Michele Bachmann, the House member and Republican hopeful, said.
Many of the hopefuls focused their attacks on Mitt Romney, who is the front-runner in the race.
Romney's campaign has gained momentum after receiving a prominent endorsement from Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, just hours before the debate.
Romney used the debate to champion his familiarity with the real economy from his days as a private equity executive, saying he would replace Bernanke with his own candidate.
The debate was seen as a big test for Rick Perry, the Texas governor who has faced criticised for faltering performances in recent debates which had sent his campaign into a tailspin.
Perry had led the field after entering the race in August but fell back in the pack after he was attacked by rivals last month for supporting cheaper in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and for ordering young girls be vaccinated for a sexually transmitted virus.
Perry argued the government should open up further domestic energy production.
| Perry was the front-runner when he entered the race in August [Reuters]
He said the US must "pull back those regulations that are strangling American entrepreneurship".
Several of the hopefuls turned their fire on Herman Cain's "999" plan to scrap the federal tax code and replace it with a flat nine per cent tax on corporations, income and sales.
Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, joked that Cain's 999 plan was "the price of a pizza when I first heard it".
Cain, who had a surprise win in the Florida straw poll, defended his tax plan as a solution to the federal
"9-9-9 is bold, and the American people want a bold solution, not just what's going to kick the can down the road," Cain said.
Obama was also criticised for the way he has handled the economy since coming into office.
"Three years ago we selected a person who'd never had any leadership experience, never worked in the private sector, never had the opportunity to actually bring people together, and he hasn't been able to do so," Romney said.
The debate in New Hampshire came three months before the first voting in the Republican race.
A poll released on Monday gave Romney 38 per cent of support among Republicans in New Hampshire.
Cain was second on 20 per cent, while Perry trailed in sixth place with only four per cent.