DES MOINES, Iowa -- GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Wednesday picked up the endorsement of South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate's Republican Policy Committee and a onetime potential presidential aspirant himself.
The announcement is the former Massachusetts governor's second major Senate endorsement. Romney recently announced the backing of two prominent Republican New Hampshire lawmakers: Rep. Charlie Bass and Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Romney leads the GOP field in that state with nearly triple the support of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, his closest competitor.
Appearing with Romney in Des Moines, Thune acknowledged the deep unhappiness that many Americans have expressed over the failure of the "super committee" that had been charged with cutting spending.
'"I'm just happy that you would accept my endorsement with congressional approval ratings at like 9 percent in some polls," Thune said to Romney before turning to the audience. "When I had this conversation with him about whether or not to endorse him, I guess what I should have said is, `I'll come out either for you or against you, whichever helps you the most.'''
While taking questions from select members of a crowd of over 300 Nationwide Insurance employees, Romney responded to a man who asked what "magic tricks" he had up his hat to beat President Obama. Romney responded that he intends to do so by "speaking day in and day out about the one topic he does not want to talk about -- and that is the economy."
When asked about how he would work in a bipartisan fashion, Romney said that he recently had spoken to former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., whom he called "a true American hero." Romney said Dole told him a story about when he and two men who would go on to become Democratic senators, Michigan's Phil Hart and Hawaii's Daniel Inouye, helped each other through their battle wounds.
"I thought, isn't that interesting, you had in the Senate people who had been in the hospital together, had served this country, and injured, and were caring for one another. The respect that engenders suggests you're not going to have the name-calling and the vitriol that exists today," he said. "I hope that I'll be able to build in my relationships in Washington the kind of personal respect and rapport across the aisle that will draw good Democrats and good Republicans to recognize that it's the country today that were dealing with."
The favorable discussion of Dole marked a turnout from 2007, when Dole endorsed Romney's then-competitor, Arizona's John McCain.