Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, endorsed Mitt Romney on Monday, writing in a Daily Caller op-ed that a long GOP primary process will only help President Barack Obama.
"With all due respect to my fellow conservative leaders determined to oppose Governor Romney, that is not a worthy endeavor," Cardenas wrote. "For the sake of our Republic, I'm not willing to wait until the Republican National Convention to sort this out."
"It's time to unite behind a worthy presidential candidate, build our organization and raise the resources necessary to defeat the liberal electoral machine," he continued.
As the head of a longstanding conservative organization, Cardenas could aid Romney in convincing Republicans that he is not too moderate to be the nominee, an issue that has plagued the former Massachusetts governor all election cycle. So far, Romney is lagging behind Rick Santorum among evangelicals and those who consider themselves "very conservative," which is hurting his ability to win the 1,144 delegates needed to lock up the nomination.
Cardenas called Romney an "honorable, worthy, competent, conservative candidate." He wrote that Romney's record as governor, frequently described as too moderate by the other candidates, in fact earned him "bona fides as a true conservative." Thanking the other candidates for joining the race, he added that they should now get out of it.
The Romney campaign has been pushing the latter message too, albeit stopping just short of saying so straight out. Last week, after Romney won in Illinois, top spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN that Romney dropped out of the GOP presidential race in 2008 after it became clear that Sen. John McCain would win the nomination, essentially hinting that Santorum, along with Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul, should do the same.
In the Daily Caller op-ed, Cardenas made the same point explicitly, arguing that extending the race until the Republican National Convention in August would aid Obama.
"As of today, it is clear neither Senator Santorum nor Speaker Gingrich nor Congressman Paul can amass the majority of delegates required to be the Republican nominee," Cardenas wrote. "Their only paths to victory feature a contested, anarchic floor fight just weeks before Americans vote on whether or not to give President Obama a second term."