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Romney snags key mayor's endorsement in New Hampshire


BEDFORD, N.H. -- Scoring one of the last major endorsements in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney announced Saturday night that he has been endorsed by Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas with exactly one month to go until the first-in-the-nation primary.

Gatsas, who leads the state's largest city and has served as the state Senate president, said Romney's electability was a deciding factor.

“After spending 25 years in the private sector as a successful businessman, Mitt knows how to balance budgets, fix broken enterprises and create jobs. He is also the strongest Republican candidate with the best organization to take on President Obama in 2012,” Gatsas said in a statement to NBC News.

“I am also impressed with the time and effort that he has invested in New Hampshire,” Gatsas added.

Gatsas, who endorsed John McCain in 2008 over Romney, will appear with the former Massachusetts governor on Monday morning at Manchester's Chez Vachon restaurant, a frequented stop on the New Hampshire campaign trail.

Romney also recently cemented the support of Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Rep. Charlie Bass and state Senate President Peter Bragdon -- and he has won a majority of key local endorsements.

"As a successful entrepreneur, Ted understands the challenges facing small business owners, and he has supported pro-growth policies tha twill help them create jobs,” said Romney. “I am proud to have earned Ted’s support."

Gatsas was reelected as mayor in a landslide in November. Before assuming public office, he co-founded Staffing Network, a company that became one of New England's largest employers. Gatsas has said publicly that he is considering a run for New Hampshire governor, to be vacated next year by Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.

With the New Hampshire primary four weeks away, most of the major GOP endorsements have been snapped up. Two major players remain unaffiliated: Congressman Frank Guinta and state House Speaker Bill O'Brien.

O'Brien is widely expected to back another House speaker -- Newt Gingrich. Guinta recently told NBC News that he has whittled his list down to Romney, Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum.

New Hampshire voters go to the polls Jan. 10.