(CNN) - Mitt Romney sought on Friday to dispel any notion he is undesirably close to Wall Street, but said his business experience prepares him better than his rivals to be president.
"I'm independent of Wall Street," the former Massachusetts governor told Bloomberg Television's Peter Cook in an interview. "By the way, I haven't ever worked on Wall Street. They were service providers to the business I was in, I was not in a Wall Street firm, although I was in financial services broadly."
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Over his 15 years as CEO of the Boston-based private investment firm Bain Capital, the company profited by buying and streamlining other companies, including laying off employees. Romney has taken fire for the layoffs, which he characterized as part of the business cycle and necessary for the companies to survive.
"Taking a Wall Streeter and sending him to Washington D.C. is not going to change a thing," another presidential hopeful, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said in December. "What this country's got to have is an outsider."
In Friday's interview, Romney said Wall Street experience would not "disqualify" an individual from serving as his Treasury Secretary.
"I would expect someone in the Treasury to have had experience dealing with financial matters and global funds flows and exchange rates and currency issues," he said. "That, by definition, is going to be a financial-related person. Whether they'd worked on Wall Street or not would probably not be the key to my decision."
Jobs numbers released Friday showed the unemployment rate dropped in December, and though Romney said "I certainly hope the economy does get better and Americans get back to work," he said the improving economy would not undercut his case against President Barack Obama.
"And the people who have been suffering over these past three years will not forget that the policies of this president kept more people out of work than needed to be in that condition," he said.
Romney also worked to downplay expectations for the Jan. 21 primary in South Carolina, which he called a "come-from-behind kind of state."
He campaigned in the state Friday morning with Gov. Nikki Haley, and gave a preview of the two weeks leading up to the primary there.
"I've got to put in some real shoe leather there and hopefully get myself up towards the top of the pack," he said in the interview.