While his presidential rivals battle for the conservative wing of his party, Mitt Romney's efforts to corral a different kind of constituency will get a boost on Friday when former Sen. John Danforth endorses the former Massachusetts governor for president.
A Republican who represented Missouri for 18 years in the Senate, Danforth will announce his support in St. Louis, where Romney will be attending fundraisers. He joins 29 other Republicans from the Show Me State who endorsed Romney this week, including former U.S. Ambassador George H. Walker III -- a cousin of former President George H.W. Bush, who entertained Romney in Houston on Thursday.
Danforth played a key role in winning the contentious 1991 confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative hero who served under him when he was Missouri's attorney general. But the Missourian was better known for his maverick impulses that sometimes put him at odds with elements of his own party.
In a 2005 New York Times op-ed, Danforth chided his fellow Republicans for having "transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians."
An ordained Episcopal minister, Danforth is the author of the book Faith and Politics: How the "Moral Values" Debate Divides America and How to Move Forward Together.
Danforth is also a member of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which sponsors and produces the debates between the Republican and Democratic nominees for president and vice president.
"This election is one of, if not the, most important of my lifetime. Our country faces the possibility of losing our place in the world if our economy fails to restart," Danforth said in a press release issued by the Romney campaign.
"Mitt Romney has taken on significant challenges at every moment in his life. Whether it was turning around struggling companies, rescuing the Olympics, or restoring fiscal health in his state as governor, he has proven that he has both the skill and leadership ability to ensure that the United States remains the strongest and most respected nation in the world," Danforth said.