Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney greets supporters at a campaign rally Fort Myers, Florida.

Concord in New Hampshire - Mitt Romney, the early front-runner for the Republican US presidential nomination, on Monday said he would want people with extensive private sector experience in his Cabinet, defended his work at a private equity firm and touted the need for lower corporate tax rates.

“In a Cabinet, I would hope that people had worked in the private sector for at least half of their careers,” Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, told workers at financial services company Lincoln Financial Group in Concord, New Hampshire.

“I like the idea that people would come to the government knowing how the private sector works.”

Romney met with potential voters in the key early primary state of New Hampshire for the third time since launching his 2012 White House run in the state on June 2.

He defended the tactics used by Bain Capital, the private equity firm he co-founded in the 1980s, which often instituted large layoffs when turning around struggling companies.

“We were able to start a number of businesses. When it gets all totalled up, on a net-net basis we helped create tens of thousands of jobs,” Romney said.

“We invested in some settings where businesses were heading down in a big way. Sometimes you have to carry out surgery to turn them around,” he said.

Earlier, meeting with local businesspeople in Salem, New Hampshire, Romney said lowering corporate taxes to 25 percent from 35 percent would be part of his job-creation programme.

“You can't lower taxes to zero... at least not yet,” he said. “I do believe we need to bring the corporate tax rate down and close loopholes and special deals.”

The top rate of personal income taxes should also be lower, he added.

Romney, who has led opinion polls among Republican hopefuls, was in New Hampshire as US Representative Michele Bachmann was formally entering the race for the Republican presidential nomination at an event in Iowa.

A Des Moines Register poll issued on Saturday of likely Republican participants in Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses showed Romney in first place with 23 percent, followed by Bachmann with 22 percent support.

Romney, who is expected to spend little time or money campaigning in Iowa, called Bachmann, who was born in Iowa and represents a district in neighbouring Minnesota, “a very strong contender”.

Romney has been on a whirlwind fund-raising tour for months, often targeting wealthy supporters from the financial industry. But he downplayed expectations for his second-quarter fund-raising totals.

“These are leaner times for folks. People who last time around might have written a cheque for $500, this time might feel comfortable with something like half that,” he told reporters. “That's why we're running a leaner campaign.” - Reuters