NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Donald Trump announced Thursday afternoon that he will back former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for his Republican presidential bid.
Trump made the announcement in Las Vegas and called Romney “tough,” “sharp,” and “smart.”
Trump also said Romney is “not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country we all love.”
Romney gladly accepted the endorsement from the business magnate and star of the “The Apprentice” reality show. Romney wrapped up his comments by telling Trump “Thank you so much for your help and your endorsement today. I look forward to seeing you on the [campaign] trail.”
Earlier, a source close to Newt Gingrich’s campaign said Trump, who last year openly considered running himself, was expected to endorse the former House speaker for the presidency.
When asked about the possible endorsement Wednesday in Reno, Nev., Gingrich said he had “no idea what the Donald is going to do.”
“He is always interesting,” Gingrich said of Trump. “And I don’t know of anybody who does a better job of getting attention by announcing that he will presently announce something.”
Gingrich sought Trump’s endorsement at a meeting in December at the real estate mogul’s Trump Tower office in Manhattan. There, Gingrich told reporters he had persuaded Trump to mentor promising children from some of New York’s poorest schools.
Appearing on CBS’ “Face The Nation” on Sunday, Trump praised Gingrich. ”He’s got great ideas. He’s very smart, he’s very tough and he is a great debater,” he said.
As for front-runner Mitt Romney, the glow of Tuesday’s big win in Florida didn’t last long. He’s being criticized for saying he’s not concerned about the very poor.
Romney says he was taken out of context.
“I’m not concerned about the very poor,” he said. “We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine.”
Right after that statement, Romney found himself doing damage control. His critics, including Gingrich, pounced.
“I am fed up with politicians in either party dividing Americans against each other,” said Gingrich. “I am running to be president of all the American people. Of course, I’m concerned about all Americans. Poor, wealthy, middle class, but the focus of my effort will be on middle-income families who I think have been most hurt by the Obama economy.”
President Obama’s campaign also jumped on Romney’s statement. The campaign sent a tweet saying, “So much for ‘we’re all in this together.’”
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)