While his presidential rivals battle for the conservative wing of his party, Mitt Romney's efforts to corral a different kind of constituency will get a boost Friday when former Sen. John Danforth endorses the former Massachusetts governor for president.
A Republican who represented Missouri for 18 years in the Senate, Danforth will announce his support for Romney in St. Louis, where Romney will be attending fundraisers. He joins 29 other Show Me State Republicans who endorsed Romney this week, including former U.S. Ambassador George H. Walker III -- cousin of former President George H.W. Bush, who entertained Romney in Houston on Thursday.
Although Danforth played a key role in winning the contentious 1991 confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative hero who served under Danforth when he was Missouri's attorney general, the Missourian was better known for his maverick impulses that sometimes put him at odds with elements of his own party.
In a 2005 op-ed for the New York Times, Danforth chided his fellow Republicans for having "transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians."
An ordained Episcopal minister, Danforth is the author of the book "Faith and Politics: How the 'Moral Values' Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together."
Danforth is also a member of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which sponsors and produces the debates between the Republican and Democratic nominees for president and vice president.
"This election is one of, if not the, most important of my lifetime. Our country faces the possibility of losing our place in the world if our economy fails to restart," Danforth says in a press release issued by the Romney campaign. "Mitt Romney has taken on significant challenges at every moment in his life. Whether it was turning around struggling companies, rescuing the Olympics, or restoring fiscal health in his state as governor, he has proven that he has both the skill and leadership ability to ensure that the United States remains the strongest and most respected nation in the world."
Danforth is endorsing Romney in a key battleground state -- but one where the GOP presidential contender appears to need little help this spring. Romney's current chief rival, Newt Gingrich, won't be on the ballot. The Los Angeles Times reported last month that Gingrich did not file his paperwork on time.