(AP Photo/Cheryl Senter )
Reporting from Dover, N.H. -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry told a voter in Dover, New Hampshire Thursday that he had no plans to change the Social Security system for those who are nearing the point where they would receive benefits.
"You don't have to worry about anything," Perry told an older man who asked him to explain his position during a visit to Harvey's, a coffee shop in Dover. "There's not going to be any changes in the program that we've got for folks that are your age. We'll have a conversation with the rest of the country about what is the age that we start transitioning away from the program we've got now."
"The folks who are either on or soon to be on, they don't have anything to worry about. The program is going to be there," he said.
Earlier in Portsmouth, Perry faced a small crowd of protesters who took issue with what they described as his past statements questioning the constitutionality of Social Security.
In an interview last fall with Newsweek's Andrew Romano, Perry questioned whether the Constitution gave Congress the power to enact Social Security.
"I don’t think our founding fathers when they were putting the term 'general welfare' in there were thinking about a federally operated program of pensions nor a federally operated program of health care," Perry said, according to an interview trancript released last week by The Daily Beast. "What they clearly said was that those were issues that the states need to address. Not the federal government. I stand very clear on that. From my perspective, the states could substantially better operate those programs if that’s what those states decided to do."
In his book, "Fed Up!: Our Fight to Save America from Washington," Perry refers to Social Security as "an illegal Ponzi scheme."
"Now, if you say Social Security is a failure, as I have just done, you will inherit the wind of political scorn," Perry wrote. "Seniors might think you want to cut the benefits they have paid for. Politicians will seek to take advantage, stirring up fear about benefits that will be lost if you elect another 'heartless Republican.' I get it. That’s why only retired senators chair entitlement commissions."
The book, "was a historical review of the overreaches of the federal government and a discussion about how Washington has encroached and gotten out of control from governor Perry's standpoint," Perry's presidential campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan told reporters.
Sullivan added that, "when it comes to Social Security today," Perry believes there should be, "a robust debate about entitlements, a debate about extending the retirement age for younger people and for other changes that will make Social Security and Medicare more stable and financially sound going forward."
The Texas governor has made it clear, Sullivan said: "We need to protect benefits for those who are at or near retirement, so they don't have anything to worry about."
"But clearly we need to have a debate and discussion and likely changes down the road for those two programs to make them more financially sound."
Sullivan said he was not familiar with any comments Perry has made questioning the constitutionality of Social Security.
Perry will be laying out "sound proposals about how to make the federal government more responsible, responsive and fiscally sound, and entitlements is a big part of that," Sullivan said.
Sullivan is also Perry's chief of staff but is on leave from the governor's office this week.
Matea Gold in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.