DES MOINES, Iowa – Rep. Tom Tancredo, who built his long shot presidential campaign on opposition to illegal immigration, dropped out Thursday and endorsed Republican rival Mitt Romney as the best man to carry on the fight. Tancredo, a five-term congressman from Colorado, has consistently polled at the bottom of the nine-person Republican field. He announced his withdrawal two weeks before Iowa begins the presidential nominating process with its precinct caucuses. He said he decided to drop out in part because of concern that staying in could split the vote for other candidates who have taken a hard line on immigration, helping those who would take a less restrictive approach. “I fear remaining in this race, one which I cannot win, would contribute to the nomination of one of these candidates,” he said. Tancredo said he and Romney met Thursday for more than an hour and that he left the meeting convinced that the former Massachusetts governor would do what’s necessary to fight illegal immigration. “He is the best hope for our cause,” Tancredo said. None of the other candidates, including Romney, has hit the issue as hard as Tancredo. One of his campaign ads showed a man in a hooded sweat shirt with a backpack in a crowded mall. The screen goes dark at the sound of an explosion, then shows clips of the aftermath of terrorist acts in Europe. Tancredo announced in October that he would not seek a sixth term in Congress, but hinted he would consider running for the Senate after his presidential bid.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWhicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champTancredo identified former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Arizona Sen. John McCain as two Republican candidates whose records indicate they wouldn’t be tough enough on immigration. He said Romney has a proven record of opposing illegal immigration while governor of Massachusetts, ending driver licenses and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. He also said Huckabee’s recent rise in the polls was a factor in his decision to drop out of the race. Romney, who was campaigning in Iowa, issued a brief statement accepting the endorsement. “Congressman Tancredo ran a spirited campaign focused on issues that are important to many Americans. I thank him for his support. While we don’t agree on every issue, we agree on the need to keep America strong. I look forward to working with him and other Republicans to achieve that end,” Romney said.