Ex-Mass. governor endorses Ariz. senator

BOSTON (AP) -- Jane Swift, whom Mitt Romney stepped over in 2002 to become governor of Massachusetts, announced Wednesday she was endorsing Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential race.

"Senator John McCain is a principled leader whose unwavering determination to improve the lives of Americans is admirable," Swift said of the Arizona Republican in a statement issued by his presidential exploratory committee.

Swift, then lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, was elevated to acting governor in 2001 after Paul Cellucci resigned to become U.S. ambassador to Canada. She had been planning her own gubernatorial campaign in 2002 when Romney returned to Massachusetts from the Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and made clear he planned to seek the GOP nomination himself.

The prior year he had said he would not challenge Swift, labeling her the party's "standard-bearer."

Swift ended up stepping aside, amid sagging poll numbers and slow fund raising after political missteps that included using aides to baby-sit and a high-profile clash over a proposed highway toll increase. Hours later Romney announced his candidacy.

Romney was the fourth in a series of Republican governors who led Massachusetts from 1991 through 2006. The first, former Gov. William F. Weld, has endorsed Romney. Cellucci has endorsed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Swift's endorsement of McCain spreads the former governors' support between the three leaders in 2008 GOP primary polling.