Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval backs Rick Perry

Holly Bailey
The Ticket

Rick Perry has picked up a key endorsement in his bid for the 2012 Republican nomination. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval announced late Tuesday he'll back the Texas governor in the race, giving Perry an important show of support in a key early GOP caucus state and likely swing state in 2012.

The move isn't so surprising: Perry and Sandoval have long been considered close political allies. But Sandoval's endorsement is a blow to Mitt Romney's campaign.

The former Massachusetts governor won the Republican caucuses in the state in 2008 and needs a win there again next year to further his hopes of winning the 2012 nomination.

Romney had been wooing Sandoval for months in hopes of securing an endorsement. Indeed, Romney has spent more time in Nevada than his rivals in recent months, visiting the state just last week where he delivered a speech in North Las Vegas detailing his jobs plan. The ex-governor has received the backing of two other key Republicans in the state—Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and Rep. Joe Heck, who both backed him in 2008.

But since joining the race last month, Perry has suggested he wouldn't cede the state to Romney. Sandoval's support is a major boost for the Texas governor, given how popular the top Nevada official is with GOP voters in the state. Sandoval is also considered a rising star in GOP political circles and, as a Hispanic, could help with Perry's push to woo Latino voters.

"Gov. Rick Perry has the strongest record of job creation, fiscal discipline, and executive branch leadership among the presidential candidates," Sandoval said in a statement Tuesday.  "As a governor, Rick Perry created a tremendous blueprint for job creation and as president, I know he will get America working again."

This is the second big endorsement Perry has landed this week. On Monday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another rising star in Republican politics, backed the Texas governor.