Tim Pawlenty Endorses Romney

Tim Pawlenty Endorses Romney

By Scott Conroy - September 12, 2011

After dropping out of the presidential race last month, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president on Monday morning, calling his onetime rival a “man of great character” and “a man of principle.”

“He believes in the bedrock conservative ideals of limited government and free enterprise,” Pawlenty said of Romney in a letter that Romney’s campaign blasted out to supporters. “He will stand up for America's allies when they are threatened, with fortitude. And he will face down our adversaries. He is a formidable person, and he will certainly be a formidable president.”

Pawlenty struggled to gain traction in the polls and raise money for his own White House bid, which he ended the day after finishing a disappointing third place in the Ames Straw Poll, trailing fellow Minnesotan Michele Bachmann and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Pawlenty will serve as national co-chair for Romney’s campaign.

As a candidate, Pawlenty was a frequent critic of the universal health care plan that Romney implemented in Massachusetts, which he called “ObamneyCare” in an effort to link the plan to President Obama’s national health care overhaul.

“I don’t think you can prosecute the political case against President Obama if you are a co-conspirator in one of the main charges against the president on a political level,” Pawlenty said in June. “And so it really puts your nominee, if that’s who it turns out to be, in a very difficult spot.”

Critics were quick to highlight Pawlenty’s past denunciation of the Romney plan. Eddie Vale, the communications director for Protect Your Care -- a progressive health care advocacy group that has frequently derided Romney -- sent an email to reporters on Monday asking, “Anyone want to set up an over/under on how many times I say ‘ObamneyCare as it’s called by Romney’s campaign chair Pawlenty’?”

In an appearance on Fox News on Monday morning, Pawlenty said that Romney had assuaged his previous doubts about his health care stance, in part by reiterating his promise to repeal the national health care law.

"I talked to Mitt about this at some length, and look, for Republican primary voters, one of their main concerns is the repeal of ObamaCare, and Mitt Romney is 100 percent dedicated and committed to repealing ObamaCare,” Pawlenty said. “He understands and believes and has asserted himself, while it was right for states to take different approaches, that it was wrong for President Obama to try to bring that to a national platform.”

Pawlenty and Romney have had a long personal relationship, and both former governors were considered for the vice presidential slot in 2008 before John McCain eventually chose then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Although he was never able to secure a wide swatch of support among the Republican electorate, Pawlenty’s endorsement will likely help Romney’s effort to mitigate doubts about his Massachusetts health care plan.

Pawlenty’s endorsement could also aide Romney in his effort to portray himself as a more electable Republican than his main rival for the nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. 

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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