Just hours after Mitt Romney pulled off the thinnest of victories over Rick Santorum in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses, former Republican presidential nominee John McCain on Wednesday endorsed his one-time rival, urging a New Hampshire audience to work to "make Mitt Romney the next president of the United States of America."
Speaking to voters at a town hall meeting in Manchester, the Arizona senator and former 2008 GOP standard bearer lambasted President Obama's record, warning him: "You can run but you can't hide - from your record of making this country bankrupt; from destroying our nation security, and from making this nation one that we have to restore."
Invoking his comeback win in the Granite state - where he bested Romney despite the former Massachusetts' governor's considerable New Hampshire ties - McCain expressed "some nostalgia" at returning to the state. But, he said, he returned "to make sure that we make Mitt Romney the next president of the United States of America - and New Hampshire is the state that will catapult him on to victory."
"The time has arrived for Republicans to choose a presidential nominee; a new standard bearer who has the ability and determination to defeat President Obama and the strongest commitment to returning America to prosperity and defending our interests and values overseas. I'm pleased to have made my choice, and to endorse Governor Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination for president," he added, in a statement sent out by the Romney campaign during the event.
The endorsement has the aura of a favor returned. Four years ago, Romney endorsed, and later campaigned for, the Arizona senator after announcing his own withdrawal from the race. The two had been fierce competitors in the days leading up to Romney's withdrawal last time around.
Romney, introducing McCain at the event, said he was "proud" to appear alongside the former nominee, and took aim at President Obama as "a nice guy" who's in "over his head."
He also joked about last night's "squeaker" of a victory in Iowa.
"Do you think we can get more than an eight vote margin in New Hampshire?" Romney joked. "Can we do better here in New Hampshire?"
A Suffolk University daily tracking poll out of New Hampshire showed Romney with a dominating lead in the Granite state, with 43 percent support. Sixteen percent of voters said they were still undecided, and fourteen percent said they supported Paul, who fared third in last night's Iowa contest. Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry all followed with less than ten percent each.