Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) early Monday announced his endorsement of Marco RubioMarco RubioThe ignored question: What does the future Republican Party look like? Graham to roll out extension of Obama immigration program Trump and Cuba: A murky future MORE, backing the Republican presidential candidate on the eve of the Nevada caucuses.
“I think he’s going bring forward the strongest voice, the strongest image and really the most thoughtful and informed strong view about how to move this country forward from a conservative perspective,” Pawlenty added.
Pawlenty pushed back on the characterization of Rubio as the "establishment" candidate in the GOP race, instead describing the senator elected in a tea party wave as a "bona fide movement conservative."
The former governor is the latest politician to endorse Rubio after he edged out Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzCruz: I'd rather have Trump talk to Taiwan than Cuba or Iran Lewandowski: Top Cruz aide advised Trump team before NH primary Five reasons why Donald Trump could be the 'Greatest Communicator' MORE (Texas) for second place in South Carolina over the weekend behind Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats complained about Citizens United until the cash rolled in Of principle and compromise: A paradox within America’s political discourse Priebus defends Trump's claim that millions voted illegally MORE.
Rubio picked up the backing of a pair of Nevada lawmakers on Sunday in a race that has winnowed following former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush departure after the South Carolina primary on Saturday.
Pawlenty's endorsement also comes ahead of the Minnesota caucuses on March 1.
--This report was updated at 7:34 a.m.