(CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney locked up the support of Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin on Sunday.
“He’s dedicated toward solving those problems. He is ready, willing and able to lead this nation, unlike President Obama. So today I’m happy to announce my full support and my endorsement of Gov. Romney to be the next president of the United States,” Johnson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
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The endorsement came two days before voters head to the polls in the Badger State, which has 42 delegates at stake.
Johnson, a first-term senator who won his seat in a big 2010 upset against Sen. Russ Feingold, said he had not expected to officially support any of the Republican candidates, but changed his mind after getting to know Romney in recent weeks.
“I’ve come away from those conversations fully convinced that Gov. Romney is the person to lead our party, to lead our nation. He fully understands the gravity of our financial situation,” Johnson said.
As a former businessman in manufacturing, Johnson also pointed to Romney’s experience in the private sector as a major reason for his backing of the candidate.
The former Massachusetts governor holds a strong advantage over his GOP rivals in Wisconsin, according to an NBC/Marist Poll released Friday. The survey indicates Romney has the support of 40% of primary voters, compared to Rick Santorum’s 33%, Ron Paul’s 11% and Newt Gingrich’s 8%.
In a statement, Romney touted Johnson’s endorsement and said he looked forward to working with the senator on the campaign trail.
“His understanding and focus on our debt and deficits, and pointed questioning of administration officials, has quickly gained Ron the respect of colleagues and the appreciation of hard working Americans,” Romney said.
Meanwhile, Santorum criticized Johnson's endorsement as another nod for Romney from the GOP "establishment."
"Look, you know I get it, the establishment folks in Washington, D.C., they're in the bubble and they see the world very, very differently than we do and I think most Americans do," Santorum said, campaigning in Milwaukee. "And we're going to continue to go out and try to elect conservatives to the presidency and that's what we're focused on."
– CNN Political Producer Shawna Shepherd contributed to this report.