New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a rising GOP star who beat back a tea party challenge last year with help from Sarah Palin, will endorse Mitt Romney on Sunday at a rally in Nashua, NH.
Ayotte joins a laundry list of notable backers for Romney in the Granite State, among them former Govs. John H. Sununu and Judd Gregg, often in tow at Romney events in the state. The campaign had been working for some time to secure Ayotte's endorsement.
A former state attorney general, Ayotte was the choice of the local and national Republican establishment for the Senate seat in 2010 but the 43-year-old Granite State native had to fend off a crowded field of Republican challengers, including tea party activist Ovide Lamontagne,who had the backing of Sen. Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund. Palin, the GOP's 2008 vice presidential nominee, backed Ayotte as "one tough Granite grizzly."
Earlier this month, Ayotte was one of 11 GOP senators who joined Herman Cain for a private dinner at a downtown Washington steakhouse.
In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Ayotte said she chose Romney because "I've been impressed by the amount and quality of time that Mitt Romney has spent campaigning in New Hampshire. He has been holding town hall meetings and answering the unscripted questions of New Hampshire voters." The newspaper said Ayotte will be named a co-chair of Romney's national advisory committee and "will be a surrogate for Romney not only in New Hampshire but also in other key states."
In addition to Palin, many other well-known Republicans travelled to New Hampshire to campaign for Ayotte last year, including Romney and his presidential rival, Rick Santorum