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Jeb Bush Endorses Romney

By    |   Wednesday, 21 March 2012 11:26 AM EDT

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made his long-awaited endorsement in the GOP presidential race on Wednesday, putting his name behind Mitt Romney’s campaign.

Bush, who many have touted as a possible compromise candidate if Romney fails to attract enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, made it clear in his statement that the time has now come for all Republicans to stand squarely behind the former Massachusetts governor’s candidacy.

He gave his endorsement within hours of the Illinois primary, where Romney crushed his nearest challenger, former Sen. Rick Santorum, by 12 percentage points.

Editor's Note
: Do You Like Romney, Santorum, Gingrich or Paul?  Vote Now in This Urgent Poll.

“Congratulations to Governor Mitt Romney on his win last night and to all the candidates for a hard fought, thoughtful debate and primary season,” said Bush in a statement, pointing out that it is time for party unity after 34 contests.

“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,” Bush said.

“We face huge challenges, and we need a leader who understands the economy, recognizes more government regulation is not the answer, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism and works to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed.”

The candidates had courted Bush, the son and brother of a former president, hoping for his endorsement — especially because of his popularity in the key swing state of Florida and the clout he carries among Hispanics, who are seen as a crucial voting bloc.

But he had held out. Many had attributed that to the thought that he still could become a key player at the Tampa convention in August. However, he maintained all along that he was not interested in the nomination this time round.

Just last month, when asked about the Republican race, Andy Card, President George W. Bush’s chief of staff, told interviewer Charlie Rose, “I have the perfect candidate — Jeb Bush. But he’s not running.”

Editor's Note
: Do You Like Romney, Santorum, Gingrich or Paul?  Vote Now in This Urgent Poll.

Bush’s endorsement of Romney was not a huge surprise, especially as his delegate lead over Santorum continues to grow. Romney is now close to having half of the 1,144 delegates he needs and is 300 ahead of Santorum. Both of his parents, former President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush already had endorsed Romney.

And last month in a speech in Dallas, Jeb Bush — the second of the Bushes’ five surviving children — complained that all the candidates had to push to the right to win the GOP nomination but in so doing were alienating independents and moderate Republicans whose votes they will need if they are to defeat Obama in November.

“It’s important for the candidates to recognize they have to appeal to primary voters, and not turn off independent voters that will be part of a winning coalition,” he said.

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Wednesday, 21 March 2012 11:26 AM
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