Mitt Romney can add Jeb Bush to the long list of influential Republican endorsements he has accumulated during the party's presidential nomination campaign.
The popular former Florida governor and younger brother of George W. Bush is highly respected in his party and known for forging connections with Hispanic voters.
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 a statement Wednesday, noting the Illinois primary. 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.
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.
Bush's endorsement is yet another boost for the former Massachusetts governor and comes on the heels of a primary victory that padded Romney's significant lead in delegates in the run-up to this summer's party convention in Florida.
Bush, governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, was long rumored to have presidential ambitions of his own and many Republicans have pushed for him to run this year. He put speculation about a 2012 candidacy to rest last summer.
Earlier this year, Bush told Bloomberg News he would stay neutral in Florida's Republican primary -- won by Romney on Jan. 31 -- and remained quiet about his preferred candidate until Wednesday.
His endorsement might have some influence over how Hispanic voters feel about Romney. The ex-governor has spent much of his career wooing Latino voters, whose support was critical to his electoral wins. Bush is fluent in Spanish and his wife was born in Mexico.
Romney could certainly use the help. Obama won 67 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center. A recent Fox News poll showed that Hispanic voters still heavily supported Obama (73 percent), but Romney fared the best among Republican candidates.
In the same Bloomberg News interview, Bush said, I don't agree with Mitt's views on immigration in their totality but that's OK. My not endorsing him does not relate to any particular issue.