Mark Kirk will formally endorse former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s bid for the GOP presidential nomination on Monday, sources close to the political operation of the first-term Illinois Republican senator said Sunday.
Kirk, the state’s highest-ranking Republican officeholder, will join more than 50 members of Congress who already have endorsed Romney’s candidacy, leading up to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.
"America needs his managerial talent, team building spirit and hard-nosed sense of economic common sense,” Kirk said.
In September of last year, Romney keynoted a fundraiser for Kirk, who was then a five-term congressman seeking the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC also gave $6,000 to Kirk’s winning Senate campaign against former Democratic state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, federal campaign disclosure reports showed.
The value of Kirk’s endorsement is debatable. Illinois doesn’t hold its presidential primary until March 20 and it is questionable whether what has been a fluid race for the Republican nomination will continue. But Romney has a strong ground operation in Illinois, which has a large number of convention nominating delegates at stake if there is a Republican contest.
Earlier on Sunday, Romney told Fox News Sunday that a drawn-out contest is “certainly a possibility” because of new rules that allocate delegates on a proportional basis of the popular primary vote in early states, just as Democrats do.
“We watched what happened when the Democrats did that,” Romney said of the rules change. “Their primary process went on for a long, long time. So we are prepared. If we go on for months and months, we will have the resources to carry a campaign to each of the states that will decide who gets the delegates and who becomes the nominee.”
Illinois Republicans in March will directly elect delegates to the national convention from each of the state’s new 18 congressional districts. The popular election for president in the state will remain a “beauty contest” with no effect on delegate selection.