McCain endorses 2008 rival Romney

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Fresh from the narrowest of victories in the Iowa caucuses, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney picked up the endorsement of Sen. John McCain on Wednesday as he seeks a more convincing win in the New Hampshire primary.

“I’m here to make sure we make Mitt Romney the next president,” Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said at an appearance with Mr. Romney at Central High School in this state’s largest city. “New Hampshire is the state that will catapult him on to victory.”

The endorsement was a boost for Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who eked out a win Tuesday night in Iowa over former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania by a scant eight votes.

The Iowa results showed that Mr. Romney, who received nearly the same number of votes as he did in 2008, still is having trouble winning over conservatives. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas finished a close third.

As the campaign shifted from Iowa to New Hampshire for Tuesday’s primary, the GOP candidates were retooling.

One, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, dropped out after a dismal finish in Iowa.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who finished a disappointing fourth in Iowa, sought to reclaim the conservative mantle that Mr. Santorum grabbed in Iowa.

As they hit the ground Wednesday in New Hampshire, all of Mr. Romney’s challengers were confronted with six days to cut into his large lead in the polls.

Mr. Romney called Mr. McCain a “hero” and joked about his razor-thin victory in Iowa.

“Do we think we can get more than an eight-vote margin here in New Hampshire?” he asked the audience of about 200. “I think so. I’m going to try.”

Mr. Santorum, who faces the challenge of expanding his appeal among New Hampshire’s less-conservative electorate, dismissed the significance of Mr. McCain’s endorsement.

“It’s fine. I expected that,” Mr. Santorum said on CNN. “It’s a surprise he hasn’t done it earlier.”

Mr. Santorum also raised the question of whether the endorsement by Mr. McCain, who has endured some celebrated feuds with conservatives in his party, will help Mr. Romney with the GOP base.

“John is a more moderate member of the Republican team, and I think he fits in with Mitt’s view of the world,” Mr. Santorum said.

Mr. McCain is a popular figure in New Hampshire, the scene of his stunning upset of George W. Bush in the 2000 GOP presidential primary. Mr. Romney, who owns a home in New Hampshire, also has received the endorsement in the Granite State of former Gov. John Sununu.

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