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Leading Obama critic endorses Romney for 2012

Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) (L) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) are seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 24, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed
Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) (L) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) are seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 24, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Reed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Representative Darrell Issa, a leading Obama administration critic, endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Thursday, bolstering the conservative credentials of the former Massachusetts governor.

As chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa has become a hero on the Republican right for running investigations into Democratic President Barack Obama's White House.

His committee is now probing the administration's involvement in the collapse of solar equipment maker Solyndra.

Issa is a six-term Republican congressman from California, thriving as a conservative in a strongly Democratic state that is home to many wealthy political donors.

Issa endorsed Arizona Senator John McCain, the eventual Republican nominee, in the 2008 race.

Romney has struggled to appeal to the most conservative wings of the Republican party because of his record as a one-term governor of Massachusetts, where he had a moderate record including support for a healthcare reform program that Obama used as a model for his U.S. health overhaul, which is reviled by Republicans.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, Romney's top rival in the Republican nomination race, is a favorite of both social conservatives and the party's fiscally conservative Tea Party movement.

Romney founded the investment firm Bain Capital and has touted his private sector experience to make the case that he is better equipped to fix the troubled U.S. economy than Perry. Issa cited that experience as he announced the endorsement.

"President Obama never worked in the real economy -- we can't afford to have another president who has spent his career outside the real economy," Issa said in a statement.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Anthony Boadle)

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