Mitt Romney scored the endorsement of South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley Friday as he tries to improve his standing in that state in advance of next month’s primary.
Haley is the tea-party affiliated, Indian American governor swept into office last year as part of the GOP electoral tide and is considered a rising star in the party. Should Romney capture the nomination, it’s likely that Haley’s name will be part of the vice presidential conversation.
Haley made the announcement on Fox News Channel on Friday. Later in the day, she’s scheduled to campaign with Romney in Greenville, S.C.
"Now more than ever, we need someone that has the leadership to deal with a broken Washington," Haley said.
She said the fact that Obama’s reelection campaign has centered so much of its fire on Romney proves that he is the most viable candidate in the general election.
"Governor Romney is the one candidate that President Obama insistently tries to hit and get out of the way," Haley said. "That lets me know he's scared of him."
But it remains to be seen how much Haley’s nod will benefit Romney in a state where he faces an uphill battle because of its wide swath of evangelical voters.
Haley has also seen her approval rating sink since her election. A poll this month taken by Winthrop University showed it at just 35%, less than Obama’s rating in the state. The poll’s findings were disputed by state Republicans, who called it inaccurate.
Various polls taken in the last month have shown Newt Gingrich with about a 20-point edge over Romney in the state. South Carolina’s primary is Jan. 21.
Haley’s is the second tea party-infused endorsement Romney has landed this week. Christine O’Donnell, the former Senate candidate from Delaware, also came out for him. That may help blunt criticism from politicians such as Sarah Palin, who has charged Romney has done less to cultivate support from that wing of the party than Gingrich.