An attack by former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) on Mitt Romney's (R) record of job creation as governor of Massachusetts erupted into a war of words Tuesday between the two presidential candidates.

Huntsman, the former ambassador to China, criticized Romney's record as governor, echoing Democratic criticism that Massachusetts ranked 47th in the nation for job growth during the time when Romney was governor.

"Take a look at we've done in Utah," Huntsman said Monday in South Carolina in comments circulated by his campaign. "When you look at absolute increases in job creation, Utah led the nation...contrasted with other states say, Massachusetts, not first but 47th."

That comment sparked some public jousting in the media between the two campaigns, both of which are competing for position among many of the same voters in two of the same states: New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Romney has made his time as governor and his experience in the private sector a central component of his campaign messaging. But Democrats have picked up on the metric saying that Massachusetts ranked 47th in job creation as a way to undercut the GOP frontrunner's argument. (The nonpartisan organization Politifact rated this claim "half true.")

"Mitt Romney spent 25 years as an entrepreneur and businessman in the real world economy and understands what it takes to create good jobs.  As governor he confronted an economy very similar to Obama's economy: high unemployment and no job creation," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Tuesday. "In four years as governor of one state, Mitt Romney created more net jobs than President Obama has as President. Americans live every day with the hard reality of President Obama’s failed economic leadership. Mitt Romney will get America working again."

As a matter of comparison, Romney's campaign boasts that unemployment ultimately sank in Massachusetts — from 5.6 percent in January of 2003 to 4.6 percent in January of 2007. Utah's unemployment rate dipped from 4.5 percent to 2.4 percent during the same period. While Huntsman left office in 2009 with a higher unemployment rate, that was a product of the national recession; the unemployment rate in Utah dipped to a low of 2.4 percent during his time as governor, and the state's jobless rate is still below the national average.

Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller shot back at the Romney campaign late Tuesday morning, calling Romney's record as governor "abysmal."

"You know your job creation record is bad when you brag about leapfrogging a state ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The reality is Mitt Romney's record on job creation was abysmal by every standard. Governor Huntsman will run on his record of cutting taxes, reducing regulation, and passing free market health care which resulted in Utah becoming the #1 state for job creation," he said. "We assume Mitt Romney will continue to run away from his record."