Pawlenty endorses Rubio's White House bid

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) early Monday announced his endorsement of Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio apologized to Trump for 'small hands' crack Sunday shows preview: Bernie soldiers on Fla. Senate candidate bashes Rubio MORE, backing the Republican presidential candidate on the eve of the Nevada caucuses.

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“I think it comes down to this: He’s strong, he’s also informed. He’s conservative and he’s electable and he can unite the party. And you can’t ask for much more than that. I think he’s got the total package,” Pawlenty, a former GOP presidential candidate himself, said of the Florida senator on CNN’s “New Day.”

“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 CruzMeet the billionaire donor behind Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Party chairs see reversal of fortune McConnell: Trump White House will have ‘constraints’ MORE (Texas) for second place in South Carolina over the weekend behind Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGary Johnson wins Libertarian nomination Clinton emails dominate Sunday shows GOP senator: Did Clinton email setup play a role in Russian invasions? 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.

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