Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney picked up the coveted endorsement of freshman New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte on Sunday, perhaps signaling that the conservative Republicans in the Granite State have begun to warm to the GOP front-runner.
Ayotte is the most prominent sitting legislator to endorse Romney in the crucial primary state, the New York Times reports. Elected last year, Ayotee was endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who dubbed her a “mama grizzly” worthy of conservative support.
The endorsement comes at a crucial time for Romney. After months of leading rivals for the Republican nomination by as much as 20 points in the polls, he may face a challenge in New Hampshire from the resurgent campaign of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. A recent NH Journal poll had the two effectively tied for the lead, with Gingrich’s numbers spiking in recent weeks.
In other good news for his campaign on Sunday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a longtime political rival of Romney, said religious conservative voters would rally to the former Massachusetts executive’s camp should he become the nominee, despite their doubts about his political record.
“Mitt Romney may not be their first choice,” he told a television station in the state, “but Mitt Romney every day of the week and twice on Sunday is going to be a much more effective president for issues that they care about than Barack Obama.”
The New Hampshire primary will be held on January 10.