(FROM CBS News) -- Rick Santorum endorsed presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney late Monday night in an email to supporters, saying a private meeting with the former Massachusetts governor last Friday had given him confidence that issues important to him and his supporters would be well represented in the general election.
Santorum competed fiercely with Romney in the primaries and has seemed unready to endorse him in the month since he dropped out of the race. His endorsement could pave the way for social conservatives to embrace Romney.
"The primary campaign certainly made it clear that Governor Romney and I have some differences. But there are many significant areas in which we agree: the need for lower taxes, smaller government, and a reduction in out-of-control spending. We certainly agree that abortion is wrong and marriage should be between one man and one woman.
"I am also comfortable with Governor Romney on foreign policy matters, and we share the belief that we can never allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons. And while I had concerns about Governor Romney making a case as a candidate about fighting against Obamacare, I have no doubt if elected he will work with a Republican Congress to repeal it and replace it with a bottom up, patient, not government, driven system," Santorum wrote in a note circulated to supporters by e-mail.
"Above all else, we both agree that President Obama must be defeated. The task will not be easy. It will require all hands on deck if our nominee is to be victorious. Governor Romney will be that nominee and he has my endorsement and support to win this the most critical election of our lifetime," the note read.
Santorum and Romney had a one-on-one meeting last Friday in Pittsburgh. Aides had cautioned that the meeting was set up to discuss issues, not to arrange for an endorsement.
Santorum wrote in the note to his supporters that he felt a "deep responsibility to assess Governor Romney's commitment to addressing the issues most important to conservatives," among them the importance of the family.
"I was impressed with the Governor's deep understanding of this connection and his commitment to economic policies that preserve and strengthen families. He clearly understands that having pro-family initiatives are not only the morally and economically right thing to do, but that the family is the basic building block of our society and must be preserved," Santorum wrote.