Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday threw his support behind Mitt Romney's bid for the Republican presidential nomination, calling the former Massachusetts governor "the man for the job."
"Given his accomplishments, background, character, experience, ideas and intellect, Mitt Romney has what it takes to build a foundation for America's success in this global economy," Snyder wrote in an op-ed column published Thursday by The Detroit News.
Romney is fighting rival Rick Santorum to win the Feb. 28 Republican primary in Michigan. Losing would be a significant embarrassment for Romney, whose father, George, served as Michigan's governor before losing his presidential bid in 1968.
Snyder _ who, like Romney, is a former venture capitalist _ was elected in 2010 after campaigning as an outsider with business experience.
Romney made a direct pitch Thursday to tea partyers, an important force in the Michigan GOP and a group Santorum counts on for support. Romney invited several tea party activists to a roundtable discussion in Monroe, Mich. He called the federal debt immoral because it crushes future generations, and promised to cut spending sharply.
In the op-ed, Snyder praised Romney's performance as Massachusetts governor as well as his plans to cut federal government spending.
Snyder's backing caps Romney's significant establishment support in the state, where dozens of local officials have already signed on to back him. Romney spent his childhood in Michigan and won the GOP primary in 2008, and a decision from Snyder to back a rival or to stay out of the presidential contest would have been a blow.
A Republican official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Snyder will speak in support of Romney at a local Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday in Farmington Hills, Mich. Romney was addressing the group and Snyder was expected to appear with him. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the announcement and requested anonymity.
Romney also wooed tea partyers while campaigning in the state on Wednesday and arguing against the federal bailout of the auto industry.
Associated Press writer Charles Babington in Monroe, Mich., contributed to this report.