(CNN) - Mitt Romney is returning to Iowa next Friday for the first time since barely losing the state's GOP presidential caucuses in 2012.
The former GOP nominee will campaign for Republican Senate hopeful Joni Ernst in Cedar Rapids and Davenport, her campaign announced Thursday.
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Ernst has emerged as a high-profile candidate in recent months. She's considered a potential threat against the all-but-certain Democratic nominee, Rep. Bruce Braley, if she wins her party's nomination on June 3.
Republicans view Iowa as a potential pick-up seat in their quest to retake the Senate.
"Joni’s proven record in the state Senate, her decades of leadership as a military officer, and her commitment to the values that were passed on to her as a girl on a Montgomery County farm make it clear to me that she is the very best Iowa has to offer," Romney said in a statement distributed by Ernst’s campaign.
His support follows another big boost for her as the Des Moines Register endorsed Ernst for the primary.
Romney's endorsement also puts him on the same page as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who's known for picking conservative candidates. Palin announced her support for Ernst in March.
Romney's trip to Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest in presidential elections, will likely fuel speculation that the former Massachusetts governors is thinking about another run himself.
Romney, however, has repeatedly said he would not throw his hat in the ring for a third time.
The winner of the Iowa race in November will replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.
CNN's Peter Hamby contributed to this report.