Romney: 'I misspoke' in remarks about the 'very poor'

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"I misspoke. I wish I wouldn't have said it that way," he said on Fox News's "Hannity" on Thursday.

In an interview with CNN Wednesday morning, the GOP front-runner said he "is not concerned about the very poor," sparking attacks from Democrats and GOP rivals.

"I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it," Romney said in an interview on CNN's "Starting Point." "I'm not concerned about the very rich; they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America."

Romney told Fox News that he has made similar remarks on the campaign trail throughout the GOP race, clarifying that his intent was to explain his concern for the middle class in the United States.

"I want to help middle-income Americans. I want to get people out of poverty and into the middle-income category, but of course I'm concerned and worried about all Americans," he said.

Romney has previously talked about how middle-class voters need help in the tax code, while the poor already have a safety net to aid them. 

"Now and then you misspeak, you have to acknowledge it. It's something I did not intend to say in the way it was said, but I recognize it's part of the political process," Romney added.

Republican rival Newt Gingrich hammered his opponent at an event Thursday in Las Vegas, where he told an audience, "I believe we should care about the very poor, unlike Gov. Romney."

Fellow GOP candidate Rick Santorum also criticized Romney, saying his remarks on the poor showed "callousness." "You know, this is people we’re talking about who are on the margins of society,” Santorum said Thursday on St. Louis radio station KMOX.

Romney's verbal gaffe also caused alarm for others in his own party. Republicans are concerned that the normally disciplined Romney needs to get back on message and avoid providing Democrats with sound bites that can be used in attack ads in the general election.