Former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray, a prominent centrist Republican in the early caucus state, endorsed Mitt Romney Friday morning for the GOP presidential nomination.

"I want our next president to be someone whose character and judgment I respect and whose ideas are valid for our country. I believe Mitt Romney offers the personal qualities and vision to become a truly great president," Ray said in a statement sent out by Romney's campaign. "Mitt has a strong record in business, including turning around the Winter Olympics, and leading the state of Massachusetts. Mitt Romney would represent America’s values and interests in an uncertain, challenging, and competitive world. With our future in mind, I am proud to support Governor Romney in the caucuses and hope to vote for him next November."

Ray is a former five-term governor who was in office from 1969 to 1983, and has a long history of working on bipartisan healthcare reforms. His long absence from office has diminished his name recognition in the state, however.

The endorsement reinforces Romney's play for centrist Republicans and Independents in the state.