As the US Republican presidential race moved west to Nevada, Mitch Romney appeared to have a strong lead over his rival, Newt Gingrich. The former Massachusetts governor was bolstered by some high profile support.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney held a huge lead over his two days before caucuses in Nevada, a poll showed Thursday.
A new poll of likely voters in the caucuses showed that Romney - who two days earlier had easily won the Republican primary in Florida - had a 45 percent to 25 percent lead over Gingrich.
Hours after the poll was produced, Romney won the backing of billionaire and television celebrity Donald Trump. Trump, who himself briefly considered the idea of a run at the presidency last year, said he trusted Romney with the candidacy.
"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," Trump said. "Governor Romney, go out and get 'em, you can do it."
Trump had been expected to give his backing to Romney's more conservative rival Gingrich. Accepting the endorsement at Trump's own hotel-casino in Las Vegas, Romney expressed disbelief at the development.
"Being in Donald Trump's hotel and having his endorsement is a delight," said Romney.
However, some feel the backing of Trump - famous for the catchphrase "You're fired" - could backfire at a time of economic stagnation and high unemployment. It comes a day after multimillionaire Romney made a gaffe in which he appeared to show indifference to the country's poor.
"I'm not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there," Romney on Wednesday told the broadcaster CNN, adding, "If it needs repair, I'll fix it."
Democrats ridiculed the endorsement by Trump, with Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz describing Trump as "a cartoon character, as “like Bugs Bunny making an announcement."
Romney has won two of the first four states, New Hampshire and Florida, by wide margins while former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich won South Carolina. Also in the race are former senator Rick Santorum, with 11 percent, and Texas congressman Ron Paul, with nine percent.
rc/ai (AFP, Reuters)