Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who some Republicans hoped might run himself, said it was time for the party to show their endorsement behind Mitt Romney and bring its core messages to voters.
After a somewhat rough month, things are finally coming together for Mitt Romney.
He won Illinois by a decisive margin. He is dominating in the delegate race, and would only need to win 46 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination.
And on Wednesday he added a key endorsement from a GOP bigwig who has held off on making a choice: Jeb Bush.
The popular former Florida governor — who some Republicans hoped might run himself in this election — issued a statement Wednesday giving Mr. Romney his support.
“Primary elections have been held in 34 states, and now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall,” Mr. Bush said in the statement.
The endorsement was hardly a surprise — Romney has also been endorsed by former President George H.W. Bush and by former first lady Barbara Bush. And it’s less a ringing personal endorsement of Romney than it is a plea for party unity.
But it is still good timing for Romney, coming off a big win in Illinois that many see as a turning point in the race. And it adds to the sense of inevitability that Romney will be the eventual nominee.
While Romney has always come across as the choice of the GOP establishment — and has earned far more endorsements than any other candidates in the race — some of the biggest names in Republican politics have held out on giving their blessing.
Bush’s endorsement may signal more to come from other key Republican leaders — like Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — whom party insiders had tried to draft to run themselves.
His rivals sought to downplay the endorsement, with R.C. Hammond, a spokesman for Newt Gingrich, calling it “just the completion of the establishment trifecta” — a reference to Romney’s previous endorsements from Bob Dole and Jeb Bush’s father.
But expect more key endorsements in the days and weeks to come, and increasing pressure — both public and behind the scenes — for Romney’s remaining rivals to drop out of the race.