WASHINGTON Senator Rand Paul, whose firebrand father Ron has effectively ended his White House bid but still seeks to grow his movement and influence Republicans nationally, endorsed party nominee Mitt Romney on Thursday.
Rand Paul is a conservative Tea Party favorite mentioned as a possible Romney vice presidential pick for the November election. He told the "Hannity" program on Fox News that the time was right to back Romney publicly.
"My first choice has always been my father. He's still my first pick," Rand Paul said.
But the Kentucky lawmaker said that Romney impressed him in a recent private meeting as a responsible leader who shared key principles on family values, closer oversight of the Federal Reserve, congressional prerogatives, and foreign policy.
Paul, who also noted that Romney's father, too, fell short in a run for president in 1968, said he would campaign for the former Massachusetts governor.
"I think I can be an asset in solidifying the conservative base of the party. I also think that myself, my father and the movement that he started attracts a lot of independents. A lot of these young people aren't necessarily the conservative base."
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, said in a statement that he was honored to receive the endorsement.
Ron Paul's message of sharply reducing the role of government, scrapping the Fed and ending the U.S. military presence overseas is unique to him. Many of his supporters have said they would not vote at all on Election Day if Paul were not the nominee.
He effectively ended his active campaign for the White House last month but continues to try to pad his tally of nominating delegates to the nominating convention in August and influencing Republican politics nationally.
(Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by David Brunnstrom)