Tampa, Florida (CNN) - Hours before the start of the first-ever CNN/Tea Party Republican debate, a candidate who dropped out of the GOP presidential race last month is putting his support behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty threw his support behind Romney on Monday.
On Monday, Sept. 12th, CNN will broadcast the "Tea Party Republican Debate," live from Tampa, Florida at 8 p.m. ET. Follow all the issues and campaign news leading up to the debate on CNNPolitics.com and @cnnpolitics on Twitter.
"Romney is running for president because he is deeply committed to our country, troubled by its current condition, and I believe he can turn it around," Pawlenty said in a statement released by the Romney campaign.
Following the endorsement, Romney's team announced in a statement that Pawlenty will serve as a national co-chair of Romney's campaign.
Pawlenty dropped out of the race on Aug. 14 after a disappointing third place finish at a crucial GOP presidential straw poll in Ames, Iowa. The former two-term governor from neighboring Minnesota campaigned heavily in Iowa in the two months leading up to the straw poll.
Pawlenty was critical of Romney early in the summer, slamming him for his Massachusetts health care program that served as a model for President Barack Obama's sweeping health care reform–an unpopular measure among Republicans.
Pawlenty made one of the first attacks in the GOP 2012 presidential race when he coined Romney's health care plan as "Obamney Care" in June. But in a CNN debate in New Hampshire a day later, Pawlenty didn't follow through on a golden opportunity to attack Romney over the issue.
Regardless of past criticism, in his statement Pawlenty praised Romney's time in office, as well as in the private sector as a businessman.
"Alone among the contenders, he possesses the unique qualifications to confront and master our severe economic predicament," Pawlenty said.
The endorsement comes the same day of the CNN Tea Party Republican debate at the Florida State Fairgrounds near Tampa, where Romney is expected go head-to-head with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, on Social Security, jobs, and other issues.
Perry launched his campaign for president the day before Pawlenty dropped out and since then the Texas governor has jumped to frontrunner status, knocking Romney, the former frontrunner, out of the the top spot.
But for Pawlenty, Romney would be his first choice for the nomination.
"He is a formidable person, and he will certainly be a formidable president," Pawlenty said.
– CNN's Ashley Killough, Paul Steinhauser and Peter Hamby contributed to this report.
this is just a move to be considered for vp candidate.
Just look at how Romney is looking at Pawlenty. The picture says it all. Phoney, deceptive, weird and devious. You're not nor will you ever fool me Williard. Just wait until people wake up and you'll be a two time loser.
How ironic. T-Paw is too chicken to confront Romney on his coining the term "Obamney Care," but is now endorsing him? Ain't life full of ironies?
Good grief...... The Repubs are so hard up now they are endorsing each other!!!!! Ain't that a hoot? I wouldn't give you a dime for either one of them.. With all his money....that we are forever hearing about ....wouldn't you think that Romney could find something constructive to do for OTHER people if he is so determined to make a name for himself??As someone loow on the financial spectrum, I am tired of hearing about his financial exploits!!!!!!!
--WOW !!! Stop the presses. What an earth shattering event--as if I cared. – Both are losers.
Pawlenty is endorsing Romney because Romney agreed to pay off his campaign debts. (That was announced on the news this afternoon.) There is NOTHING about this political palm-greasing arrangement that makes me think Romney is a good candidate for president. It only reinforces the fact that he has a lot of money to throw around and that's how he's used to getting his way.
As for Perry and Romney - they are both so bought-and-paid-for by special interests that they reek of the stench of political game-playing. I almost can’t stand the sight of them because of what they’ve come to represent. Americans can’t afford four more years of political palm-greasing. We need a TRUE American statesman who will fight for the Constitution and the American people, free and unencumbered by special interests. That man is Ron Paul and Ron Paul alone. He is the ONLY candidate who stands up for the Constitution and the American people EVERY TIME. The ONLY one.
The Pawlenty quitter (or is he called the undefeated?), Obomney care hater, left in debt former MN governor, unemployed endorses multi-millionaire-mormon, job outsourcer to make money for himself and investors, adding more square footage to my mansion Romney?
WHEW! I can finally lay my head down on my pillow tonight and sleep and not worry about the direction my country is heading. No more pacing the floor with worries, coma induced drugs, pass out from alcohol, ALL because of his endorsement!! Thank you Pawlenty, you're my hero! I will now vote for Romney because I always make my decisions based on who got endorsements. Not what is good for the country, but what is good for the party! (sarcasm)
One question, why not go with once-a-democrat-now-a-republican Perry? He has room for you at his $10,000.00 per month taxpayer paid mansion.
Guess we know why Timmy turtled when he had a chance to confront Willard during the debates, he was just trying to score brownie points. There's two pillars of strength right there: a flip-flopper and a spineless wonder.