South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley endorses Romney for president

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South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Friday.

"Today is the day that I am throwing all of my support behind Mitt Romney for president," Haley said Friday on Fox News. 

The endorsement is critical given the South Carlina primary, which takes place next month. Romney has held a lead for the GOP presidential nomination in polls for much of the year, but has recently seen former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) surpass him in national polls and in surveys of Iowa caucus-goers.

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Haley's support is a coup for Romney given Haley's popularity in the coveted primary state. In a statement, Romney said it was "an honor" to be endorsed by Haley. Romney endorsed Haley when she ran for governor in 2010.

Haley said she was looking to endorse a candidate to help improve "jobs, the economy and spending."

"What I want is someone who is not part of the chaos that is Washington. What I wanted was someone who knew what it was like to turn broken companies around," Haley continued.

The Republican South Carolina governor said she talked with every candidate in the GOP field except one about an endorsement.

"I think we spoke with every candidate except for Ron Paul," Haley said. "It was just because Ron Paul never made the call."

Haley said Romney learned a lot from his previous run for president in 2008.

"He's very much become a great candidate, just like Ronald Reagan did in that in his first run he learned a lot as a candidate," Haley said. "I don't think this is about being a candidate anymore; he spends a lot of time thinking about our country and how to get it back on track."

In explaining her endorsement, the popular South Carolina governor also said one big factor in choosing a candidate was that she thinks he can beat President Obama in the general election.

"Gov. Romney is the one candidate that President Obama consistently tries to hit and get out of the way," Haley said. "That lets me know he's scared of him. It also lets me know Gov. Romney's got a good fight in him and that's the one President Obama doesn't want to have to go against."