Mitt Romney Earns Important Endorsements

Bob Dole, Nikki Haley endorse Romney.

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More members of the Republican establishment are moving toward GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Over the weekend, Romney won the endorsements of Bob Dole, the former senator from Kansas and the 1996 Republican presidential nominee, and Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina.

Dole praised Romney as a devoted family man with rock-solid conservative values.

Haley said at a rally in Charleston, "I'm telling you, if you like what he has to say, go tell 10 people and let's change history in America." Haley added in an interview with Fox News: "What I want is someone who is not part of the chaos" in Washington.

Fifty-five members of Congress are backing Romney, compared with seven for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is leading in national polls of GOP preference.

The question is how much influence the GOP establishment will have on rank-and-file voters and conservative Tea Party activists who are upset with the status quo and with business as usual in the capital. On that basis, the endorsements may not have much impact at all.

But Romney supporters argue that it's better for the former Massachusetts governor to win a GOP leader's endorsement than to have it go elsewhere, and the overall effect could be to generate a sense that he is gaining in popularity.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

Last weekend, Romney also won the endorsement of the Des Moines Register, the largest newspaper in Iowa, which holds the first contest in the GOP nominating process with caucuses on January 3.

The Register's support is dismissed by Romney's opponents, who argue that it is a liberal-leaning newspaper and has a mixed record in picking the winners. For example, the Register endorsed Sen. John McCain of Arizona for the GOP nomination in 2008, but former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas won the Iowa caucuses that year.

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