Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday endorsed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential primary race, ending months of speculation.
Bush, the brother of President George W. Bush and the son of President George H.W. Bush, had long been rumored in Florida political circles to favor Romney but had steadfastly kept his opinions private.
Bush even kept quiet during the Florida primary election this winter, when Romney was struggling to overcome a surge from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich after Gingrich won the South Carolina GOP primary.
On Wednesday, he spoke up, and added a plea that the three other primary contenders - Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul - end their campaigns and unite behind Romney.
Bush had said something similar during the Florida GOP primary, giving a televised interview in which he pleaded with the candidates to avoid "a circular firing squad" by continually criticizing each other.
Bush's endorsement comes the morning after Romney won the Illinois GOP primary with 47 percent of the vote.
"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. "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."
He added, "I am endorsing Mitt Romney for our Party's nomination. 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."
Romney's Illinois win gave him 41 of the state's 54 delegates, increasing his delegate total to 562. Santorum now has 249, while Gingrich has 137 and Paul has 69.
A total of 1,144 delegates are needed to seal the GOP presidential nomination.
by RTT Staff Writer
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