“I know what it’s like to worry whether you’re going to get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered if I was going to get a pink slip," Romney said.

But Perry said that Romney's attempt to sympathize with the unemployed was "the ultimate insult."

“There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business, and I happen to think that’s indefensible,” said Perry. “If you’re a victim of Bain Capital’s downsizing, it’s the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina and tell you he feels your pain, because he caused it.”

Perry was referring to two South Carolina companies — one a photo album plant, the other a steel manufacturer — that Bain Capital recommended shuttering, resulting in 850 workers losing their jobs. The company made $85 million in management fees working for the two companies, according to ABC.

Romney's Republican opponents have been pressing hard on the former Massachusetts governor's ties to Bain, sensing that portraying Romney as out of touch and elite could be effective in the current economic climate. Newt Gingrich said earlier Monday that Bain had "looted" other companies.

"They apparently looted the companies, left people unemployed and walked off with millions of dollars," Gingrich said on NBC's "Today." "Look, I'm for capitalism, I'm for people who go in to save a company ... If somebody comes in, takes all the money out of your company, and then leaves you bankrupt while they go off with millions, that's not traditional capitalism."

A pro-Gingrich political action committee is also poised to spend millions of dollars on a half-hour-long ad, filmed as a documentary, that takes a critical look at Romney's work at Bain.

"I haven't seen the film yet, I suspect I will — I've read about it, but what I've read about it said that it's based upon historical facts," Gingrich said. "I think at some point, Gov. Romney is going to have to hold a press conference and walk through, with considerable detail, some of the companies that Bain took over where they apparently looted the company, left people totally unemployed and walked off with millions of dollars."

Romney has defended his record, pointing to successes at companies like Staples as evidence that he had a net-positive effect on the economy. But a moment Monday when he attempted to defend the practice of firing workers might have worsened matters.

"I like being able to fire people who provide services to me," he told business executives from the Nashua Greater Chamber of Commerce while campaigning in New Hampshire, adding if he isn't getting a "good service, I want to say, 'I'm going to get someone else.'"