Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee and former Senate majority leader, announced Sunday that he will endorse former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney to represent the GOP against Barack Obama in 2012. In a half-page ad in the Des Moines Register, whose editorial board announced Saturday their endorsement of Romney, Dole urged Iowa Republicans to vote for Romney in the critical January 3 caucus.
"A number of my friends are currently candidates seeking the GOP nomination. But the time has now come for us to decide who among them can defeat Barack Obama in 2012. I've made my decision, and I believe our best hope lies in Governor Mitt Romney," Dole wrote.
"As President, Mitt Romney will succeed in turning this country around," he wrote. "He rescued a flailing Winter Olympics when it was mired in financial scandal. He was an exceptional Governor of Massachusetts, who managed to both balance the state's budget and cut taxes while dealing with an overwhelmingly Democratic state legislature."
In 2008 Dole supported Romney's competitor Arizona Senator John McCain who would go on to secure the nomination. ABC News notes that Romney came under criticism in 2008 when he said that Dole–who had written a letter to Rush Limbaugh in support of McCain–was “probably the last person I would have wanted to write a letter for me,” going on to compare Republicans who supported Bob Dole in 1996 to those supporting John McCain in 2008 because he is "the guy who's the next line, he's the inevitable choice."
Romney would later clarify his marks , explaining that he wouldn’t have wanted Dole’s support if he was John McCain because it “reminds the American public that our selection at that time was seen by most as being one that went to the person who waited in line the longest, who deserved the nomination, who’d been in the Senate the longest, and that I don’t believe will be a successful strategy in this process.”
Dole was Senate majority leader at the same time that Romney's current 2012 rival Newt Gingrich was speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Reuters reports that the two Republican congressional leaders were often at odds, "with Dole often frustrated by Gingrich's firebrand personality."
Dole finished first in the Iowa Republican primary caucus in 1988 and 1996.