Tim Pawlenty endorses Mitt Romney for president

Pawlenty , left, gives former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another likely candidate, a pat on the back at a conservative Freedom Foundation of Minnesota event in Bloomington, Minn. on April 9, 2010.
AP Photo/Craig Lassig,File
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, left, has endorsed his former rival in the GOP presidential race, Mitt Romney.
AP Photo/Craig Lassig,File

Updated at 9:25 a.m. ET

Former Minnesota governor and former Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty announced Monday morning that he's endorsing Mitt Romney for president.

"Alone among the contenders, [Romney] possesses the unique qualifications to confront and master our severe economic predicament," Pawlenty wrote in an email to his supporters this morning.

On Fox News Monday morning, Pawlenty said he will serve as a national co-chair of Romney's campaign.

In his email, Pawlenty praised Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts, noting that he turned the state budget around from a deficit to a surplus, as well as Romney's experience in the private sector. He also commended Romney's experience running the 2002 Winter Olympics, where he oversaw a "highly complex security mobilization."

The former presidential contender also praised Romney's character, calling him "deeply committed to our country," a family man, and a "man of principle."

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"He believes in the bedrock conservative ideals of limited government and free enterprise. He will stand up for America's allies when they are threatened, with fortitude," Pawlenty wrote.

On Fox, Pawlenty said he believed Romney would be the eventual Republican nominee, but he said he wasn't angling for the job of vice president.

"I'm not going to consider being VP. I was down that path once before with John McCain," he said. "That won't be part of the future for me."

Pawlenty was asked about his previous criticism of Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts, which he had dubbed, "Obamney-care."

Pawlenty said he's spoken with Romney about health care and is now convinced "Mitt Romney is 100 percent dedicated and committed to repealing Obamacare."

In a statement, Romney said Pawlenty will be a "trusted adviser" in his campaign. "Tim has always been an advocate for lower taxes, reduced spending, and an environment where jobs can be created," he said.

The endorsement comes ahead of the next Republican presidential debate, which CNN and the Tea Party Express are hosting Monday night in Tampa, Florida. A new CNN poll out today shows that 30 percent of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP support Texas Gov. Rick Perry for their party's nomination. Romney follows Perry with 18 percent support.