MONROE, Michigan (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won the endorsement of Michigan’s popular governor on Thursday, as polls showed him locked in a tight battle ahead of the February 28 primary in his boyhood state.
Romney, whose father was governor of the state, has seen rival Rick Santorum rise sharply in the polls since winning a series of nominating contests earlier this month in the state-by-state contest to choose a Republican candidate to run against President Barack Obama in November.
Some Michigan polls show the two contenders neck and neck.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who is widely credited with helping kickstart a slow but sustained economic recovery, wrote in The Detroit News daily newspaper that Romney “has deep ties to our state.”
“Mitt understands the challenges confronting Michigan as few Americans do,” Snyder wrote.
Romney was unable to turn his last gubernatorial endorsement into political gain - he was trounced by rival Newt Gingrich in the January 21 South Carolina primary despite having the backing of Governor Nikki Haley.
Romney continues to face criticism in Michigan for opposing the U.S. government’s 2009 bailout of Detroit automakers General Motors and Chrysler, which helped save the companies and thousands of jobs in a state hard hit by the financial crisis.
Romney was born in Detroit and his father was chairman and president of American Motors Corp.
On Thursday morning, General Motors, which was forced to restructure to received federal aid from the Obama administration, posted a record profit of $7.6 billion for 2011.
Reporting By Sam Youngman; Editing by Paul Simao