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Photos: John Elway's love for Mitt Romney (and every Republican presidential candidate)

Last night, the Mitt Romney campaign got a lot of bounce from announcing the endorsement of John Elway -- and having Elway introduce Romney at a Wings Over the Rockies rally. In truth, though, Elway's declaration of support is about as surprising as Tim Tebow taking a knee after scoring a touchdown. Look below to track fourteen years of Elway's Republican presidential campaign love, as well as video from 2008 and last night.

1998: I'd like to go to the White House, but I've got a tee time....

Bill Clinton.
Bill Clinton.

As noted in an Associated Press article linked here, Elway declined to mark the Broncos' 1998 Super Bowl victory by visiting the White House for a grip-and-grin photo opportunity with Bill Clinton, the man then occupying the presidency. However, Elway denied that the turn-down had anything to do with politics.

So...what did Elway do while his teammates were rubbing elbows with Bubba? As the AP noted, Number 7 "had his knee checked by doctors that day and then played a round of golf."

Continue for more about John Elway's endorsements of Republican presidential candidates.

2004: "W" stands for "win"

George W. Bush.
George W. Bush.

Elway actively campaigned for the reelection of George W. Bush, even releasing an open letter on his personal website that spoke about the prez in glowing terms. It reads:

To Our Fellow Americans:

We have given much thought to the values and characteristics that make a great athlete. Our lives have been spent trying to run farther, push further, and jump higher than the person beside us, or across the field of our chosen sport. With years of training and exhaustive competition beneath our belts, we have identified the values necessary to compete and win--values like personal strength, determination, a sense of fair play and faith.

The same qualities that make a great athlete make a great President -- the determination to do what is right, regardless of the latest polls, the personal strength to bear the weight of the nation on your shoulders, and the faith that a higher power will direct the actions of good people.

We see in President Bush these same qualities.

In 2001, our nation was attacked without cause or provocation. The President's values saw us through those dark days after the terrorist attack. The economy was rocked by the dual blows of the terrorists' cowardly action and the reckless disregard of the rules by a few rogue executives.

But President Bush's decisive, principled leadership has moved America forward, and today our nation is safer and our economy is strong and getting stronger.

The fight against terrorism takes decisiveness. It takes continued support for our troops and first responders. But most importantly, it takes courage and inspirational leadership in the White House. In these critical times, our President has had the courage to stand up and do what's right.

For that and for his unwavering character, we choose George W. Bush as our President for the next four years. He is a leader we can depend on to make the tough decisions and the right decisions. Please join us in supporting a candidate of courage, President Bush -- a leader who backs our troops defending our nation and shares our values.

Sincerely,

John Elway

Continue for more about John Elway's endorsements of Republican presidential candidates.

2008: No McCain, no gain

As in 2004, Elway took the stump in Colorado alongside the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain. Joined by another Broncos great, safety John Lynch, Elway played on his never-say-die gridiron proclivities to explain away McCain's deficit in the polls, saying, "I know a thing or two about comebacks."

To the Washington Post, Elway insisted that McCain didn't require a Hail Mary to achieve victory. "I think he needs a field goal," he said. "That's all he needs. He needs a field goal."

Apparently, the kick fell short.

Continue for more about John Elway's endorsements of Republican presidential candidates.

2012: A fit with Mitt

Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney.

Although the Romney campaign didn't release Elway's official endorsement until last night, around the time of the aforementioned campaign rally, Big John had already stuck out his hand on behalf of the Republican hopeful. Last week, the Colorado Observer reported about the use of Elway in an e-mail fundraising appeal.

"It is very rare for me to reach out to friends and colleagues about politics, but this upcoming election is too important for me to sit on the sidelines," the pitch read in part. "The vote is extremely close in the swing states, like Colorado, that will decide this election. I know it has been said before but this is the most important election of my lifetime."

Then, yesterday, came the following Elway statement, issued by Romney campers:

Governor Romney is a proven leader with the experience and background to turn around our struggling economy. In these tough economic times, we need a president who understands how to get America working again - by standing on the side of taxpayers and small-business owners who do the real job creating. I am endorsing Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan for President and Vice President because I know having the courage to make decisions and tackle challenges is what leads to results and real change. America needs a comeback team - Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are that team.

Another comeback reference -- always a favorite.

Continue for more about John Elway's endorsements of Republican presidential candidates.

About last night:

Given this lead-up, no one was shocked in the slightest when Elway introduced Romney before a boisterous Wings Over the Rockies crowd -- and as you can see by the video above, he did a straight-forward job, with no Clint-Eastwood-talking-to-an-empty-chair theatrics.

That's not surprising, though. After all, he's run this play before.

More from our Politics archive: "Photos: Mitt Romney says our rights come from God in Jeffco speech."