(CNN) - Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced he was backing GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney Friday, saying his support could help Romney win Saturday's hotly-contested South Carolina primary.
"I'm a Southern governor endorsing Mitt Romney in the first Southern state primary," McDonnell said on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien."
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"The governor of South Carolina has endorsed him as well. I think hopefully that will help him some. He's the one that's been consistent. Other candidates have been up and down. He is the consistent, results-oriented conservative who has the best record and the best message on jobs and on cutting spending," McDonnell said.
Romney's campaign said McDonnell would campaign with Romney in South Carolina ahead of Saturday's first-in-the-South primary, including a stop Friday in Charleston.
McDonnell, considered a rising Republican star, has served as governor of Virginia since 2010, and also acts as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. He is seen by many as a potential vice presidential pick for the eventual GOP nominee.
McDonnell singled out Romney's experience as governor of Massachusetts in his announcement.
"I'm endorsing Mitt Romney because I think he's the right leader at the right time," McDonnell said on CNN. "He's got a proven record of doing that in the public and private sector. I think he's the best chance to be able to defeat President Obama in November. So I'm thrilled to be supporting Mitt Romney. I've said for a long time a current or former governor would be the best leader for America, and he's the one I'm supporting."
McDonnell's announcement comes one day after another governor, Rick Perry of Texas, dropped out of the GOP race. McDonnell took over the chairmanship of the Republican Governor's Association from Perry when the Texan announced he was running for president, and the two are known to be friends.
Early in Perry's candidacy, McDonnell defended Perry after a weak debate performance, saying his stance on important issues would outweigh poor debate delivery.
"He's been in the race for three weeks. I'd say cut him some slack," McDonnell said in September. "People will forgive something they might think is an inferior debate performance if somebody's right on the issues."
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman also dropped his bid earlier this week. Neither Perry nor Huntsman qualified to appear on Virginia's Republican primary ballot.
In his own statement, Romney praised the Virginia governor's record on job creation.
"Governor McDonnell's leadership in Virginia is an example for the rest of the nation," Romney said. "Governor McDonnell has used the conservative principles of keeping taxes and spending low and creating a fair regulatory climate to make Virginia a top destination for job creators. These same principles can be used in Washington to fix our economy and make government accountable to the taxpayers."
-CNN's Rachel Streitfeld and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.
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