TAMPA — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney endorsed Marco Rubio's campaign for the U.S. Senate at a rally Monday, saying Rubio's message of a less-intrusive government is what Americans need to hear.
Romney, a 2008 presidential candidate who many believe will run again in 2012, said Rubio is prepared to stand up to a group Romney termed "neo-monarchists" — people who supported the government bailout of the U.S. financial institutions and auto industry.
"We're saying no to that," Romney told a group of 250 Rubio supporters at the Dr. Blaise F. Alfano Conference and Banquet Center near the University of South Florida campus. "We're saying we want to let Americans pursue their own dreams."
Romney shared a stage with Rubio, the former state House speaker, and former state Senate President Tom Lee.
During about 10 minutes of remarks, Romney praised Rubio's personal story: the 38-year-old son of Cuban-born parents who immigrated to Miami.
Some in the crowd waited nearly two hours to hear Rubio and Romney speak.
Rubio "says just what I feel," said Wilma Martin, 79, of Tampa, a Republican who has supported Rubio's GOP opponent, Gov. Charlie Crist, in the past.
Crist "has done some very good things," Martin said. "I just like this one (pointing to Rubio) better."
Romney previously said he would stay out of the Florida Senate primary, but with Rubio comfortably leading in most polls, Romney's entry is unlikely to ruffle feathers. Rubio already has been endorsed by 2008 presidential contenders Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, is supporting Crist.