March 21, 2012 at 11:30 am
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush announced his support for Mitt Romney’s presidential bid this morning, saying it was time for Republicans to unite behind the former Massachusetts governor.
In a statement, the former Florida governor congratulated Romney for his primary win in Illinois Tuesday night — and said ”I am endorsing Mitt Romney for our Party’s nomination.”
“Congratulations to Governor Mitt Romney on his win last night and to all the candidates for a hard fought, thoughtful debate and primary season,” Bush said the statement. “Primary elections have been held in thirty-four 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.”
A popular figure within the GOP, Bush had been one of the most sought after endorsements in the primary. He kept a low profile during the hotly contested Florida primary in January, declining to endorse Romney as he did in 2008.
Despite solicitations from all the nominees, Bush said repeatedly that he would not endorse a candidate till after the party had picked a nominee. Bush also publically voiced concerns about rhetoric coming from the GOP field, telling a crowd in February he was concerned the candidates were “appealing to people’s fears.”
As endorsements go, Bush is as good as it gets. He’s was the popular governor of a large swing state, has tremendous appeal among Hispanic voters, and a vast fundraising network.
Most important, he represents critical establishment support coalescing behind Romney’s candidacy. Several other leading voices in the party are expected to follow suit in the coming days, aides to Romney told the New York Times, in an effort to build a movement to gently urge the three remaining candidates to not block Mr. Romney’s path to the nomination.
Bush’s endorsement came without bells and whistles, with the former Florida governor only alerting Romney of his decision this morning. Instead of organizing a roll-out with the campaign–a joint-appearance or even a joint-statement– Bush opted to send his own statement. According to news accounts, the former Florida governor has been watching the race and made the decision to endorse this morning. “He called Gov. Romney this morning,” a Bush spokesman told CBS News.
At 12:43 pm, Romney’s camp sent out their own statement about the endorsement, calling it a “key moment in the presidential contest.”
“Jeb Bush is synonymous with good government and with conservative policies that yield results. He has long demonstrated an outstanding ability to bring people together. I therefore take tremendous pride in having earned his endorsement. This is a key moment in the presidential contest and Jeb’s counsel and support will be critical in the coming months in my effort to defeat Barack Obama and turn around our country,” Romney said in the statement.