Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina and a rising star in the conservative wing of the Republican Party, endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Friday, in a move Romney hopes will help him beat back current front-runner Newt Gingrich.

Today is the day that I'm throwing all of my support behind Mitt Romney for president, Haley told Fox News Friday morning. What I wanted was someone who knew what it was like to turn broken companies around, and someone that knows what it's like to make a decision and lead.

Most importantly, she said, Romney is not part of the chaos of Washington -- an apparent jab at Gingrich, who was speaker of the House for four years in the 1990s and presided over several bitter clashes with President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, including two government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 for which voters largely blamed Republicans.

A Feather in Romney's Cap?

Haley's endorsement is something of a coup for Romney, who is widely distrusted among conservative voters and who has had to contend with a huge surge by Gingrich in recent weeks, because she was elected governor last year with strong Tea Party support. She joins a growing list of conservative politicians -- including Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota and former Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell of Delaware -- who have endorsed Romney over his more right-wing challengers, citing his experience and his perceived electability.

It is an honor to have the endorsement of Governor Haley, Romney said in a statement on Friday. As a successful businesswoman who entered public service so government could better serve the people, Governor Haley's career-long efforts to reform government, make government more accountable to the taxpayers and fight wasteful spending should be examples for leaders across the country. These conservative principles of smaller government are what I am fighting for in my campaign and will be the basis for restoring economic prosperity and fiscal health.