Rick Perry, who launched his presidential campaign on Thursday, has scored an endorsement from one of the most prominent conservatives in Iowa.

Sam Clovis, a talk radio personality, professor and former U.S. Senate candidate, said in an interview late Thursday that he has signed on as Perry's Iowa state chairman and will campaign Friday with the former Texas governor when he visits Iowa.

“I’m convinced that Governor Perry has the skills, he’s selfless, he’s decisive and he’s courageous," Clovis told The Washington Post. "I’m a fighter pilot and I would fly his wing through the gates of hell. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

The Clovis endorsement comes as Perry is trying to grow his support in Iowa, home to the nation's first presidential caucuses. Opportunity and Freedom PAC, a pro-Perry super PAC, is airing television ads beginning Friday in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids markets that promote Perry's candidacy.

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Clovis said he has a consulting arrangement to be paid by the Perry campaign, but would not say how much he is being paid. Historically, other campaigns have paid their top supporters in key states consulting fees.

Explaining the arrangement, Clovis said, “I’m an economist, I’m a national security expert, I’m an expert on Russia, I’m an expert on the Middle East, so I bring a lot more to the table than your typical guy who will go out and whip caucus voters."

Perry is competing aggressively for support in Iowa, especially among social conservatives, with several other candidates, including Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.

In the 2012 presidential race, Clovis endorsed Santorum. He said Santorum remains "a friend," but that he decided early on he would not back him again. Clovis said his decision came down to five finalists -- Perry, Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former technology executive Carly Fiorina and businessman Donald Trump. But he said he connected on a personal level with Perry, saying the candidate's military service and poor upbringing in a remote town was like his own.

"I think this field is so deep and so strong, but there were several things about Governor Perry I felt were really attractive to me," Clovis said. "I measure all these candidates against Ronald Reagan. Of this field, I see more of Ronald Reagan in Rick Perry than I did in any of the other candidates, and I’m old enough to know who Ronald Reagan was. That made a big difference.”

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