South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has endorsed Mitt Romney.
Haley, a darling of Republican tea party circles, is one of the most coveted endorsements in the GOP race for the White House.
Haley announced her pick Friday morning on Fox News.
"Today is the day that I am throwing all of my support behind Mitt Romney for president," Haley said.
The endorsement is critical for Romney ahead of South Carolina's primary next month. Although he was a long-term front-runner, Romney has seen Newt Gingrich overtake him in recent polls.
"Governor Romney is the one candidate that President Obama consistently tries to hit and get out of the way," Haley said. "That lets me know he's scared of him. It also lets me know Governor Romney's got a good fight in him and that he's the one President Obama doesn't want to have to go against."
The South Carolina governor praised Romney for his ideas on jobs, the economy, and spending.
"What I want is someone who is not part of the chaos that is Washington," Haley said. "What I wanted was someone who knew what it was like to turn broken companies around."
All the GOP candidates except Ron Paul spoke with her, she said. Romney was her choice, in part, because he had learned much since his 2008 run.
"He's very much become a great candidate just like Ronald Reagan did, in that in his first run, he learned a lot as a candidate," Haley said. "I don't think this is about being a candidate anymore. He spends a lot of time thinking about our country and how to get it back on track."
Romney plans to head to South Carolina this weekend, where he has a series of town hall meetings along the coast. Haley's support of Romney is not unexpected: She supported him in 2008.
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