Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Tuesday.
Back in October, the Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said he wouldn't support anyone in the race until the general election, in order to give each of the candidates a fair shot. The country is still months away from the convention, but Boehner's -- and McConnell's -- endorsement unofficially seals the deal: Republican establishment wants Romney to be the nominee.
The endorsements are yet another hit to presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who continues to insist the primary is a two-man race between himself and the Republican front-runner.
I've not taken a position on this presidential campaign because as chairman of the convention, I wanna make sure all the candidates had a fair process and a fair opportunity, Boehner said in the lobby of the Republican National Committee's offices in D.C., according to Politico.
But it's clear now Mitt Romney is going to be our nominee. I think Mitt Romney has a set of economic policies that can put Americans back to work, and frankly, contrast sharply with the failed economic policies of President Obama. And I will be proud to support Mitt Romney and do everything I can to help him win.
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Later that afternoon, McConnell echoed the same thoughts. If you'll notice, the party is in the process of unifying behind him. I think it's going to be an incredibly close, hard-fought race, the Kentucky Republican said, according to the Associated Press.
Boehner and McConnell add to an increasingly long list of influential endorsements that includes Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the author of the Republican budget proposal; House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Florida senator Marco Rubio, and New Jersey governor Chris Christie.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum dropped out of the race last week, leaving Romney, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul the only major Republican candidates left in the race. Last week, he told CNN that the only people asking him to drop out were in the media.
Boehner, McConnell and most of the Republican establishment believe that Romney's substantial lead in delegates and votes makes him President Barack Obama's likely rival in the fall.
Paul has long been an outlier among the Republican establishment. Boehner's endorsement sends a harsh message to Gingrich, who still insists he's in the race to win it.
These are the same people who asked me to drop out last June, Gingrich said. I didn't do it then. I won't do it now.
Herman Cain, former presidential candidate and pizza CEO, said before a speech at Fordham Law in Manhattan last week he thought Gingrich could still be a factor in the election narrative at the Republican National Convention if he dropped out, but hypothesized he may have some reason in his mind that the rest of us don't know about.
I was grateful to see @SpeakerBoehner’s words of support. Look forward to working with him to get our country back on track.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) April 17, 2012