DES MOINES, Iowa–Former Kansas Senator and 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole endorsed Mitt Romney Sunday in an advertisement in the state’s largest newspaper.
In a half-page ad in the Des Moines Register, Dole wrote an “Open Letter to Iowa Voters” urging voters to lend their support to Romney ahead of the state’s caucuses in just over two weeks.
“A number of my friends are currently candidates seeking the GOP nomination. But the time has now come for us to decide who among them can defeat Barack Obama in 2012. I’ve made my decision, and I believe our best hope lies in Governor Mitt Romney,” Dole writes in the letter. “I’ve run for president myself and twice I had the deep honor of finishing first in the Iowa caucuses. I have many friends in the state. Some of them even call me the president of Iowa. When I say that Mitt Romney is the kind of man that Iowans should support, I know whereof I speak.”
Dole also praises Romney’s work at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 and his time as the governor of Massachusetts.
He ends the letter with this note to caucus-goers: “And one last point: When it comes to agricultural policy, you can trust Mitt-I do.”
During the last cycle, Dole backed Romney’s competitor John McCain, who went on to be the party’s nominee. Romney came under criticism when he said that Dole–who had written a letter to Rush Limbaugh in support of McCain–was “probably the last person I would have wanted to write a letter for me.”
“I think there are a lot of folks that tend to think that maybe John McCain’s race is a bit like Bob Dole’s race; that it’s the guy who’s the next in line, he’s the inevitable choice, we’ll give it to him – and that it won’t work,” Romney said on Fox News at the time.
He soon after tried to explain his earlier remarks to reporters calling Dole an “American hero” and explaining that he wouldn’t have wanted Dole’s support if he was John McCain because it “reminds the American public that our selection at that time was seen by most as being one that went to the person who waited in line the longest, who deserved the nomination, who’d been in the Senate the longest, and that I don’t believe will be a successful strategy in this process.”
Romney is now seen as that “next in line” candidate.
The Democratic National Committee was quick to respond, sending out an e mail with the 2008 video and this statement: “Sometimes, it’s just too easy. Mitt Romney will do anything to be president, including knock a respected member of his party when he doesn’t get an endorsement and then, three years later, accept an endorsement from the same person. It’s tough keeping up with “Which Mitt” is running for President on any given day.”
Dole was Senate majority leader when Newt Gingrich was speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, but they had a famously testy relationship.
Romney also received the endorsement of the Des Moines Register in Sunday’s paper.