Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) looked to contrast himself with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Tuesday in a visit to his fellow GOP presidential candidate's back yard.

Romney, in a speech he delivered to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) conference in San Antonio, Texas, stressed his private-sector experience as the major factor qualifying him for the presidency.


Romney also decried "career politicians," a subtle shot at Perry, who's held public office continuously since 1985.

"I am a conservative businessman. I have spent most of my life outside of politics, dealing with real problems in the real economy," Romney said. "Career politicians got us into this mess and they simply don't know how to get us out!"

Romney's private-sector résumé is emerging as one of the key ways Romney, the dethroned front-runner in the Republican presidential primary, is distinguishing himself from Perry, who's ascended to front-runner status. Two recent national polls showed the Texas governor as the leading choice of Republicans for a presidential candidate.

The bulk of Romney's speech still focused on President Obama, whom Romney accused of overseeing an essentially anemic foreign policy and national security strategy.

Romney criticized the Obama administration's proposal to cut $400 billion from the Defense budget over the next 12 years, and criticized the automatic cuts contained in the recent debt-ceiling compromise, which will trigger an automatic $850 billion in Defense cuts if the congressionally-mandated supercommittee is not able to identify other deficit savings.

"This is the first time in my memory that massive defense cuts were proposed without any reference to the missions that would be foreclosed and the risks to which our country and its men and women in uniform would be exposed," Romney said. "Cuts of this magnitude can only be the product of one of two mistaken beliefs."

The former governor again relied on his private-sector experience as qualifying him as the best choice to reform the Defense budget. Romney said he could identify savings, which he would then use to modernize and fortify the armed forces.

"Let me tell you, as a conservative businessman who has spent most of his life in the private sector, I look at that kind of inefficiency and bloat and say, 'Let me at it,' " Romney said. "I will slice billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency and bureaucracy from the defense budget. I will use the money we save for modern ships and planes, and for more troops. And I’ll spend it to ensure that veterans have the care they deserve."

—This story was updated at 11:41 a.m.