ST. PAUL, Minn. — Vanquished Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty endorsed contender Mitt Romney on Monday, calling the former Massachusetts governor the candidate who “possesses the unique qualifications to confront our severe economic predicament.”

Pawlenty, Minnesota’s former governor, bypassed a home-state candidate in the process, Rep. Michele Bachmann. Pawlenty left the 2012 race last month after losing to Bachmann in an Iowa GOP straw poll.

The endorsement comes as Romney finds himself chasing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who leads in most polls after only a month in the race.

Pawlenty announced his endorsement on a Fox News show and the Romney campaign rushed out a letter from Pawlenty explaining the decision.

In it, Pawlenty said Romney’s business background makes him the ideal candidate to right the nation’s flagging economy.

“I believe he can turn it around,” Pawlenty said.

Romney said that Pawlenty will be an adviser going forward, naming him a national co-chairman of the campaign. Other members of Pawlenty’s campaign team previously moved over to Romney.

While a candidate against Romney, Pawlenty hit hard on his rival’s role in crafting a Massachusetts health law some have called a template for President Barack Obama’s controversial health insurance program. Pawlenty said on Fox that he trusts Romney would move to repeal Obama’s law if elected.