Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) - The chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party came to Mitt Romney's defense on Thursday after Romney's corporate past came under fire from two of his rivals in the GOP presidential race.
"I would like to see this all shake out where Republicans stick by Republican ideals," state party chairman Chad Connelly told CNN. "I am a big proponent of the free market even though it's harsh sometimes. Nobody likes to lose jobs."
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Both Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich have assailed Romney as a predatory venture capitalist more interested in his wallet than job creation, though they have ratcheted back their criticisms in the last day.
Several leading Republicans, including South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, have since defended Romney's record at the private equity firm Bain Capital in the 1980s and 1990s.
Connelly would not condemn Perry and Gingrich by name, but called himself "a big proponent of the free market" and said the debate over Romney's record is misguided.
"What I could like to see is for us to defend the free market and draw a clear distinction between what the free market does when it picks winners and losers, and what Obama has done he propped up a company like Solyndra with taxpayer dollars," he said.
Connelly admitted that in the heat of Republican primary, questions about a candidate's resume are "fair game."
But he also said that venture capital and private equity – the Bain practices being targeted by Romney's rivals - are part of the free market capitalist system that Republicans should embrace.
He said the questions raised about Romney's private sector experience would probably make him a better candidate in the long run.
"I am one of those people who thinks a candidate gets stronger when things get vetted out," Connelly said.