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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor backs Romney, as candidate claims momentum in GOP race

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Romney exits his plane in Atlanta (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

ATLANTA—Mitt Romney scored a major congressional endorsement Sunday, as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor backed the former Massachusetts governor's bid for the Republican nomination.

Cantor is the first member of GOP leadership to endorse a Republican candidate, and his decision comes just two days before his home state, Virginia, is set to hold its primary as part of the Super Tuesday contests when citizens from 10 states will head to the polls.

"Who's going to best be able to lead this economy back to a growth mode, create jobs so people can feel better about the future?" Cantor said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." "And I just think there's one candidate in the race who can do that, and that's Mitt Romney."

Cantor, a conservative darling who has been mentioned as a future House speaker, phoned Romney before publicly announcing his support, per the candidate's campaign.

The Romney campaign seized on Cantor's support to argue that momentum is behind the former governor's presidential bid. Speaking to reporters on the candidate's plane en route to Georgia, where Romney is campaigning today, Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Cantor's decision was clearly influenced by which candidate would best help congressional Republicans at the top of the 2012 ticket.

"Republicans want coattails not concrete shoes," he said. "Rick Santorum is a concrete shoe for Republicans running for the Senate or House."

Romney is campaigning outside Atlanta today before heading to Knoxville, Tenn.—two states where Santorum and Newt Gingrich have been better received than Romney. But Fehrnstrom insisted Romney is focused more on delegates than actual wins.

"I don't know if we can win Georgia or Tennessee, but I know we can take delegates out of there, and this is a delegate contest now," Fehrnstrom said.

Asked about Ohio, where Romney will return tonight and spend the last day before Super Tuesday, Fehrnstrom claimed the ex-governor has momentum in the state, in spite of polls showing the race is statistically tied between Santorum and Romney. But he declined to say if Romney has to win Ohio in order to claim the nomination.

"More important than winning this state or that state is achieving the requisite number of delegates you need to obtain the nomination and that's what our focus is on."

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