Mitt Romney's Republican presidential campaign collected some high-profile endorsements over the weekend, contributing to a growing sense of inevitability surrounding the former Massachusetts governor's White House bid.
Romney stood with New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte Sunday afternoon, several hours after the Republican senator's decision became public.
"There's one person in this field who is prepared to lead the United States of America and that is Mitt Romney," Ayotte told cheering supporters gathered on the city hall steps. "And most importantly, there is one person who I know will ensure that Barack Obama is a one-term president and that is Mitt Romney."
And on Monday, U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass was joining Romney's campaign. Campaign aides said Bass, who served six terms in Congress before losing his re-election bid in 2006 only to win back his seat in 2010, would join Romney Monday morning on a tour of a Nashua defense contractor. Romney planned to announce Bass as a co-chairman in New Hampshire and a member of his national advisers.
"Voters in New Hampshire and across our country are looking for a candidate that understands what our economy needs to recover and grow, that has the experience of creating jobs and has the leadership qualities needed to bring the citizens of our nation back together in these challenging times," Bass said in a statement.
"I firmly believe that Mitt Romney is the candidate that will renew our country's faith in the American dream."
The Bass endorsement was first reported in The Nashua (N.H.) Telegraph.
The lawmakers are the latest high-profile additions to an organization that already included Granite State Republican heavyweights like former Sen. Judd Gregg and former Gov. John H. Sununu.
But even in a world where the impact of endorsements is often exaggerated, the public support of Ayotte and Bass is a significant step forward for Romney in New Hampshire. It has led prominent Republicans to suggest that Romney _ who already enjoys tremendous advantages in the first-in-the-nation primary state _ has become so strong here that the real contest on Jan. 10 will be for second place.
Romney hasn't begun to run television advertising yet. Instead, he's been steadily raising money and adding campaign muscle as his Republican opponents struggle to overcome weaknesses. Romney is expected to join the television ad war soon, however.
Like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's endorsement earlier in the fall, Ayotte's support offers a bridge to more conservative voters, who have been reluctant to endorse a candidate with a mixed history on some social issues. Romney has struggled to win over that voting bloc in New Hampshire and elsewhere, although some have begun to reluctantly embrace his candidacy in light of repeated stumbles by his rivals.
With Romney looking on, Ayotte, along with her husband, promised to play an active role in Romney's campaign.
"Joe and I will be doing everything we can to make sure Mitt Romney is the next president of the United States," she said. "We cannot take four more years of this president."
Associated Press writer Philip Elliott in Washington contributed to this report.