Tim Pawlenty Endorses Former Rival Mitt Romney

One month ago Tim Pawlenty was on a stage in Iowa debating against Mitt Romney, but today the former Minnesota governor — no longer in the presidential race — became a national co-chair for Romney’s campaign.

“Mitt Romney is fighting for the same things I fought for as governor and during my campaign for president,” Pawlenty said today. “As a former blue state governor, I appreciate what Mitt was able to do in Massachusetts. He created jobs and balanced his budgets without raising taxes – even with an over eighty percent Democrat legislature. That ability to get things done is what we need in our nominee.”

“In addition,” Pawlenty continued, “he has a background which is unmatched – his understanding of the private sector proves he knows how jobs are created which will be critical in turning our economy around. I am proud to endorse his candidacy for president of the United States.”

Pawlenty and his wife flew to New Hampshire and spent the day–and overnight–at the Romney’s Wolfboro lake house in early September, according to a Romney aide.

Romney asked for the endorsement then, and then a few days later, Pawlenty agreed, based on his view that Romney was the best candidate to lead on the economy.

Pawlenty, once seen as one of the GOP candidates most likely to emerge as the top rival to Romney, never managed to gain any traction in the race for the nomination. He campaigned heavily in Iowa, going all-in on a strong performance in the straw poll in Ames last month. But a dismal third-place finish — far behind Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul — left him with no hope of continuing in the Republican race. He ended his campaign the following morning.

Now Pawlenty’s old rival Romney is his new boss.

“It is an honor to have Governor Pawlenty’s support,” Romney said. “Tim will be a trusted adviser as I move forward with my campaign. Tim has always been an advocate for lower taxes, reduced spending, and an environment where jobs can be created. It is an honor to have him serve as Co-Chair to my campaign for the presidency.”

The move comes at a time when Texas Gov. Rick Perry has emerged as “the Romney alternative,” surging ahead of the former Massachusetts governor in recent polls. Perry, Romney, Bachmann, Paul and the other Republican candidates will gather tonight in Tampa for a debate.