On the day he clinched the GOP presidential nomination, Mitt Romney campaigned in must-win Nevada, raised more than $2 million with the help of gaming moguls and suggested President Barack Obama isn't qualified to fix the economy because he has never run a business.
Playing to the local crowd, Romney also criticized the president for telling people more than once not to spend money in Las Vegas.
"He raised a lot of people's hopes," Romney told supporters Tuesday at a Las Vegas furniture company. "He's been a big disappointment, hasn't he?"
Several hours later, Romney told a room of 200 well-dressed donors that Obama inherited a sinking economy but made the recession worse by raising taxes, increasing spending and hurting job growth.
"He is out of ideas. He is out of excuses. And we've got to make sure that on Nov. 6, we turn him out of office," Romney said to applause.
Romney also thanked Donald Trump, who helped him raise at least $2 million at the fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel, although the New York developer overshadowed Romney's celebratory day by renewing questions about whether Obama was born in the United States.
In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the hotel-casino mogul and reality TV star said he knows Romney doesn't agree with him. But Trump said he believes he has struck a chord with Americans who want more proof that Obama was born in Hawaii and not Kenya.
"A lot of people agree with me on this issue," Trump said several hours before the fundraiser. "I don't know if they like me, but they agree with what I say. Whether it's about Obama's birth certificate, or whether it's China ripping us off or whether it's OPEC ripping us off."
Trump told the fundraiser crowd that international business men and women and countries laugh at how they take advantage of the United States.
"When he's president," Trump said of Romney as he introduced the GOP nominee, "they will no longer think we're stupid."
Romney said that if he won the White House, he would use his experience running Bain Capital and turning around the Salt Lake City Olympics to create jobs, promote energy and cut U.S. spending and the deficit.
"We need to have presidents who understand how this economy works," Romney told 600 supporters inside a warehouse at Somers Furniture, a small business he said needs less regulation and lower taxes. "I want to use that experience to get us to work again."
Romney also reminded the cheering supporters that Obama had urged people and businesses not to waste money in Las Vegas, a city hard hit by the recession after the president took office. Romney said that he loves Las Vegas and that Nevadans will have a new choice come the fall.
"You can elect a president who says to come to Las Vegas - not to stay away from Las Vegas," he said.
The Obama campaign argues that Romney's policies would hurt small businesses and the middle class because Bain Capital caused companies to close and lay off workers, so his economic record isn't good.
But Debbi Somers, who owns the furniture company, is a small-company owner disappointed in Obama. Four years ago, she supported Obama, she said, and even held meetings at her home to help his campaign.
Now, the registered nonpartisan voter backs Romney after losing 20 part-time employees while keeping 20 full-time workers.
"Four years later, we're still struggling, and it's not getting better," Somers said. "We need a change in direction."
At the furniture store, GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval introduced Romney, making his first campaign appearance for the Republican. Sandoval endorsed Romney in April after it was clear he would become the GOP nominee.
Romney won the Feb. 4 GOP presidential caucuses in Nevada with 50 percent of the vote. But Sandoval, out of personal friendship, endorsed fellow Gov. Rick Perry of Texas before he dropped out.
On Tuesday evening, Romney clinched the GOP nomination by winning the Texas primary, surpassing the 1,144 delegates needed to win.
With the general election under way, Romney is tapping deep-pocketed GOP donors to help him defeat Obama.
Before his 15-minute speech at Somers Furniture, Romney had lunch with Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, who already is raising money for Romney after promising to support the eventual GOP nominee.
During the primary campaign, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, donated more than $20 million to a political action committee that supported Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign before the conservative quit the race.
Gingrich attended the $2 million fundraiser Tuesday with Trump, Adelson, casino mogul Steve Wynn and other members of the gaming elite who were invited to chat with Romney at the closed event.
In an interview, Gingrich dismissed Trump's questioning of Obama's origins as "a sideshow" when the focus should be on the economy.
"I think Mr. Trump is his own agent, and he gets to say anything he wants," Gingrich said, adding he doesn't agree with Trump. "I believe Barack Obama is a job-killing, American-born president."
Trump's celebrity and money-raising power can't be denied, however, and Romney, too, has refused to openly criticize him.
In recent days, Trump began renewing questions about whether Obama was born in the United States because, he said, "a lot of people agree" with him and bringing it up might help Republicans win the White House.
"I don't think he (Romney) has to take that stance, but I think it helps him. I have the largest base of fans," said Trump, the star of "Celebrity Apprentice" on NBC.
Trump endorsed Romney just before the Feb. 4 GOP presidential caucus in Nevada, the last time the two men were together here.
The endorsement came after Trump decided against an independent run for president after raising questions about Obama's origins. In response, Obama released his long-form birth certificate showing he was born in Hawaii to his American mother and Kenyan father.
Trump renewed his questions after recently learning that 1991 promotional material for Obama's memoirs described him as born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia. The publisher said it was an error.
"If he wasn't born in this country, he cannot be president. That's the purpose," Trump said when asked why he keeps pressing the matter.
Contact reporter Laura Myers at lmyers@review journal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.