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A South Dakota senator throws support behind Romney

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was in Des Moines today and received an endorsement from South Dakota Senator John Thune. NBC's Alex Moe reports.

 DES MOINES, Iowa -- On the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, South Dakota Senator John Thune endorsed Mitt Romney in the Hawkeye State, the second Republican senator in four days to throw their support behind Romney’s bid for the White House.

I want to do everything I can to encourage to persuade peoplethat the person that can lead America back to greatness is the former governor of Massachusetts and hopefully our next president, Mitt Romney,Sen. Thune told the few hundred employees gathered at Nationwide Insurance in Des Moines.

Thune, who endorsed John McCain last cycle and was on his short list for his vice presidential candidates, was thought to be eyeing a 2012 presidential bid himself.  Romney said he was relieved Thune decided not to run this year.

 “I'm so lucky that he didn't run and I'm so glad he's been willing to be with me todaybecause Thune would have been mytoughest competitor,Romney said after joking at one point that Thune looks like quarterback Tom Brady from the New England Patriots.

Since South Dakota borders Iowa, Thune’s endorsement in the first-in-the-nation caucus state will only continue speculation that Romney is making a harder push here.

Romney himself urged Iowans to come out and participate in the caucuses on Jan. 3.

Iowa has the first, and in some respects, one of the most powerful voices for who our nominee will be, he said.Id like you to think about that and take the occasion to go to the caucuses. Its a responsibility. The country counts on you.

Last week the former Massachusetts’s governor’s campaign opened an Iowa headquarters and today were passing out cards asking if people were attending the caucus, if they were interested in becoming a precinct captain, or wanted to volunteer for the campaign.

This event, Romneys third in the state in just over a month, came just a few hours after another GOP debate focusing on foreign policy. He was asked to clarify his stance on immigration following remarks former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made last night on illegal immigrants.

My view is that people who come here illegally should not have a special break or a special pathway to become permanent residents or citizens of this country, Romney told reporters.They should be in line or at the back of the line with other people who want to come here legally.

And in light of the Thanksgiving holiday, Romney made sure to point out what he was thankful for to the employees of one of the largest insurance companies in the U.S.

 “I am grateful for many things for my family, for my faith, for my country. I love America, Romney said.