Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gestures as he speaks at the Hispanic Leadership… (Wilfredo Lee / Associated…)
Reporting from Washington —
Mitt Romney's double-digit victory in Illinois on Tuesday has drawn one of the GOP's biggest names off the sidelines. Jeb Bush endorsed Romney this morning, saying it's time for Republicans to "unite behind" the former Massachusetts governor.
In a statement, Bush noted that 34 states have now voted in the nomination fight, and signaled that the party would be best served now by focusing its efforts on the general-election fight rather than the family feud.
"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," Bush said.
Bush follows his father, former President George H.W. Bush, in expressing support for Romney. Most of the GOP's establishment has endorsed him as well.
But his decision to go public at this time reflects the urgency some party leaders feel about winding down the nomination fight.
The former Florida governor has long been floated as a potential "white knight" presidential candidate for the party in the event none of the current candidates reaches the required 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination before the national convention in Tampa, Fla., this August.
Romney still has a significant delegate advantage, and is poised to add to that total in April as primaries are held in states favorable to him. GOP rival Rick Santorum, though, is considered a heavy favorite in Louisiana's primary on Saturday, and he maintains he will fight on.
Jeb Bush: Time for GOP to unite behind Mitt Romney