Romney went on the defensive after moving focus away from poor people in an interview on Wednesday [AFP]

Mitt Romney, the US Republican presidential hopeful, has accepted the endorsement of billionaire businessman Donald Trump, a day after facing criticism for remarks deemed insensitive to the poor.

Trump, a property mogul and reality television star, announced his decision at his hotel-casino in Las Vegas on Thursday, saying he was backing Romney due to his knowledge of the economy.

"It's my honour, real honour and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney," Trump said.

"Mitt is tough, he's smart, he's sharp, he's not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. Governor Romney, go out and get 'em, you can do it."

Trump, who puts his own net wealth at almost $7bn, also said he was willing to donate to Romney's campaign in the race for the nomination to oppose President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

Romney, the current Republican frontrunner, drew laugher when he replied: "There are some things that you just
can't imagine happening in your life.

"This is one of them. Being in Donald Trump's hotel and having his endorsement is a delight."

On the defensive

The endorsement came as Romney went on the defensive after a Wednesday interview with CNN in which he said he was "not very concerned about the very poor" because they have an "ample safety net".

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Romney later said that his comments were an accidental "mis-statement" of a position he had repeated throughout his campaign, the AP news agency reported.

He has repeatedly said he is focused primarily on helping middle-class voters who have been hurt by the bad economy, but said on Thursday that he gave "thousands of interviews" and that he simply had gotten it wrong.

Romney took the lead in the nomination race after winning Florida's Republican primary election on Tuesday and holds a strong advantage in polls of likely Nevada voters ahead of the state's caucuses on Saturday.

Out of touch?

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and one-time private equity executive, says his private sector experience makes him the best candidate to fix the troubled US economy.

However, the support from Trump could backfire on Romney, the son of a former governor and corporate chief executive whose wealth is an estimated $270m.

"This signifies a further consolidation of the Republican base," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told the Reuters news agency.

"But, given Romney's comments ..., I could see [Obama's campaign] would like to tie this as a way to portray
Mitt Romney as someone who is not in touch with the plight of the average American."

Source: Agencies