ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Vanquished Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty endorsed contender Mitt Romney on Monday, calling the former Massachusetts governor the candidate who "possesses the unique qualifications to confront our severe economic predicament."
Pawlenty, Minnesota's former governor, bypassed a home-state candidate in the process, Rep. Michele Bachmann, as well as the front-runner in national polls, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Pawlenty left the 2012 race last month after losing to Bachmann in an Iowa GOP straw poll.
The endorsement comes as Romney finds himself chasing Perry, who leads in most surveys after only a month in the race.
Pawlenty announced his endorsement on a Fox News show and the Romney campaign rushed out a letter from Pawlenty explaining the decision.
In it, Pawlenty said Romney's business background makes him the ideal candidate to right the nation's flagging economy.
"I believe he can turn it around," Pawlenty said.
While a candidate against Romney, Pawlenty hit hard on his rival's role in crafting a Massachusetts health law, parts of which were a template for President Barack Obama's sweeping health care overhaul. Pawlenty once dubbed the Massachusetts law "Obamneycare" and said Romney would have a tough time debating Obama on the issue because of it.
On Monday, Pawlenty said on Fox that he trusts Romney would move to repeal Obama's law if elected.
Later, the two appeared together at events in North Charleston, S.C., where Romney was asked if he'd consider Pawlenty as a 2012 running mate should he win the GOP nomination.
Romney said he is far from formulating a vice presidential short list, but he heaped praise on Pawlenty as someone who "would be a good addition to any national ticket."
Pawlenty ruled himself out.
"I made it clear in an interview this morning and in recent weeks as well that I don't want to be considered," he said.
Romney said that Pawlenty will be an adviser going forward, naming him a national co-chairman of the campaign. Other members of Pawlenty's campaign team previously moved over to Romney.
Associated Press writer Bruce Smith contributed to this report from North Charleston, S.C.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.