U.S. presidential contender Mitt Romney tried to win over doubters from the conservative Tea Party movement Sunday, telling them he was the Republican candidate who can beat back the "heavy hand of government'' and create jobs.

Braving a small protest from activists who think he is too liberal, Romney addressed a Tea Party rally in the New Hampshire town of Concord.

The most moderate of the top three Republican candidates, Romney is distrusted by some conservatives in the party. They particularly dislike a healthcare reform he enacted while governor of Massachusetts that was a model for President Barack Obama's 2010 national healthcare overhaul.

Romney, a multimillionaire former businessman, said his experience in the private sector makes him uniquely qualified to tackle stubbornly high unemployment.

"We need someone who has worked in the private sector. I'm a business guy,'' he said.

Romney was received mostly warmly by the audience of around 200 people, although some 20 Tea Party backers held a protest before he spoke to accuse him of only paying lip service to Tea Party fiscally conservative principles.

A person in the crowd wore a dolphin suit in reference to criticism of Romney as a flip flopper on policies.

"We do not need leadership that puts up a finger in the wind to see which way the wind is blowing and then changes direction,'' said Tim Carter, a demonstrator.

In recent weeks, Governor Rick Perry of Texas, favored by many Tea Party supporters, has overtaken Romney in the race to become the Republican who will take on Obama in 2012.

A recent Gallup poll showed 29 percent of Republicans would likely vote for Perry, while 17 percent would support Romney.

Romney is due to present a major policy plan on jobs this week, ahead of Obama's speech to Congress on how to alleviate unemployment of 9 percent.

In an apparent attack on three-times governor Perry, Romney said:

"Career politicians got us into this mess and career politicians can't get us out of it.''

In the audience, James McCloskey, 38, who works in finance, said he was glad Romney had reached out to "serious conservatives,'' but he added, "a speech is one thing, a record is another,'' and said he would vote for Ron Paul.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Cynthia Osterman)