Former Sen. Bob Dole endorses Romney

Former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) endorsed GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Sunday in an advertisement in the Des Moines Register.

In "an open letter to the voters of Iowa," Dole, the GOP's 1996 presidential nominee, pegged Romney as the party's "best hope" to unseat President Obama.

"I've known Mitt and his family for decades. His parents instilled in him a strong work-ethic, rock-solid conservative values and a deep sense of service to others," wrote Dole.

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"The nation can't afford four more years of Barack Obama's failed leadership," said the letter. "We absolutely need to choose a nominee who can win next November.”

Dole also remembered his own connection to the Hawkeye State. “I've run for President myself and twice I had the deep honor of finishing first in the Iowa caucuses," he said. Dole won the Iowa caucuses in 1988 and 1996.

In 2008, Dole endorsed Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), which led Romney to criticize the elder Republican statesman and suggest that he would not want Dole's support.

On Saturday night, Romney received another big boost when the Des Moines Register, the state's largest newspaper, endorsed him.

The latest Register poll, though, found Romney in third place with two weeks left before the first-in-the-nation caucuses. The poll found new national GOP front-runner Newt Gingrich in first place in Iowa with support from 25 percent of likely voters polled. Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) came in second with 18 percent. Romney was backed by 16 percent of respondents.

Romney now finds himself trailing Gingrich in national GOP polls as well as in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida, key early-voting states. Romney holds a double-digit edge over Gingrich in New Hampshire, but the former Speaker has cut into his lead.