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Mitt and Judd: Perfect Together

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The Fix is still in Iowa after today's MTV/MySpace presidential dialogue with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) but, of course, the presidential campaign is in full swing all over the country.

The big news -- aside from Obama in Iowa of course -- was Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) endorsing the presidential candidacy of former Gov. Mitt Romney (R) today in the Granite State.

"Mitt Romney embodies New Hampshire's values -- values that stress government living within its means, lower taxes, a stronger military and stronger families," Gregg said in offering the endorsement.

The two men huddled in Washington last year to talk about the need for entitlement reform -- a major focus of Gregg's career in the Senate. Gregg decided last week to endorse Romney and they chose today -- when Romney formally filed for the New Hampshire primary -- to make the announcement.

What does the Gregg endorsement do for Romney?

Most importantly, it fosters the idea that he is the pick of establishment Republicans in New Hampshire. Gregg, who served in Congress and then as governor before being elected to the Senate from New Hampshire in 1992, is the senior statesman of Granite State politics and embodies the institutional element of the GOP. It's no surprise then that in 2000 it was Gregg leading the -- unsuccessful -- campaign of then Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the state, a campaign victimized by Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) strength among independent voters.

Gregg's endorsement sends a signal of approval to establishment Republicans in the state who may have been wary of Romney due to his tendency to take more conservative positions as a candidate than he did as a governor. Gregg validates Romney as a real Republican, a major boost for the governor's campaign.

The other key element of the Gregg endorsement is that he is BY FAR the most high profile Republican elected official likely to pick sides before the New Hampshire primary. Democrats control the governorship as well as the state's two House seats, and Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) is in a very difficult re-election fight and isn't likely to involve himself in the internecine warfare of primary endorsements.

With Gregg as the lone major player on the field, he has outsized pull among those Republican voters who haven't found a candidate who they like.

Make no mistake: today is a good day for Romney's campaign. Endorsements alone don't win a state (just ask George Bush circa 2000 in New Hampshire) but any of the top tier campaigns would acknowledge privately that they'd rather have Gregg's backing than not. With former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani making noise about seriously competing in New Hampshire and McCain retaining considerable support there as a result of his 2000 victory, this keeps Romney out front -- for the time being.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 29, 2007; 5:54 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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