Jeb Bush Endorses Mitt Romney: What Top Endorsements Say About Candidates
From Ron Paul's "major" endorsement by South Carolina Sen. Tom Davis to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's unexpected reversal from Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum, here are the remaining GOP candidate's most significant endorsements so far, and how the candidates' supporters, and their reasons for backing the candidates, help illustrate each campaign's central message. Reuters

Jeb Bush has joined a growing list of GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's high-profile endorsers.

On Wednesday, the former Florida governor congratulated Romney on his win in the Illinois primary Tuesday and announced his official support for the former Massachusetts governor as the Republican presidential nominee.

I am endorsing Mitt Romney for our party's nomination, Bush said. 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.

But Jeb Bush's endorsement is only one of countless gestures of support from Republican legislators, executive officials and private citizens for Romney, rival candidates Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, and the candidates who have since dropped out, over the past eight months.

From Ron Paul's major endorsement by South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's unexpected switch from Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum, here are some of the GOP candidates' most significant endorsements so far. The candidates' top supporters, their reasons for backing the candidates, and how their reasons help illustrate each campaign's central message are seen below.

Mitt Romney: Top 5 Endorsements So Far

Romney's biggest supporters tended to be former governors, presidents and vice presidents, businessmen who turned to the executive branch of leadership in U.S. politics. Like Romney's own message this primary season, the reasons for supporting Romney appear to be relatively uniform among his endorsers: He's electable, he's got business sense, and he's someone who can lead a troubled people through a bad economy.

1. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

The former Florida governor is the brother and son of two U.S. presidents, and has been touted during the 2012 GOP primary season as a possible white knight candidate who would jump into the race if a likely nominee did not present itself by the time of the Republican National Convention in August.

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, Jeb Bush said on Wednesday.

Now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Gov. Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall.

2. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge

Ridge was once a Jon Huntsman supporter, a move that gave the former Utah governor little traction before he dropped out of the race after the New Hampshire primary.

His recent endorsement of Romney, however, may give the candidate a much-needed boost in a state where Rick Santorum, one of its former senators, continues to dominate the polls.

Ridge, who also served as the first secretary of homeland security under President George W. Bush, said in a statement that Romney demonstrated a genuine ability to command in facing the security problems that cropped up for the Games in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, referring to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

He also praised Romney for what he called his proven ability to turn an economy around.

Given the economic problems that America faces, including Pennsylvania, where high unemployment continues to cause such hardship, his experience turning around failing enterprises makes him precisely what the country needs, Ridge asserted.

3. Former Vice President Dan Quayle

Quayle, served under President George H. W. Bush from 1989 to 1993, after serving as a U.S. representative and U.S. senator for Indiana.

Though his time as vice president is remembered more for frequent gaffes than for political or intellectual finesse, Quayle has since become a successful author and chairman at Cerberus Capital Management. Quayle announced that he would endorse Mitt Romney in December 2011. His son Ben was elected to the House from Arizona in 2010.

He has proven over and over again that he is a leader, Dan Quayle said. He has demonstrated he is capable of making tough decisions and turning things around.

Calling Romney a man of integrity and praising him for a strong defense policy, Quayle asserted that the former Massachusetts governor has a deep love of the principles that make America great.

Because of President Obama's failed leadership, Washington has become dysfunctional, Quayle said. We need a leader from outside of the Washington establishment. We need a president with a proven track record of innovative thinking and a proven ability to make tough decisions and implement them.

4. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

It's now time for our party to unite around the candidate best equipped to beat Barack Obama, Jon Huntsman said during a news conference in South Carolina, announcing his own withdrawal from the race. Despite our differences ... that candidate is Gov. Mitt Romney.

Bemoaning the fact that the GOP primary race had degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks ... not worthy of the American people and this time in history, Huntsman, also a former ambassador to China, argued that Romney was the only man in the race who could restore bold and principled leadership to the White House.

At times, however, Huntsman appears to have aligned himself with Romney, a fellow Mormon, only as the least of all possible evils.

Gone are the days when the Republican Party used to put forward big, bold, visionary stuff, Huntsman said in a recent appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

I think we're going to have problems politically until we get some sort of third-party movement or some alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas.

5. House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor

At the beginning of March, the House majority leader and Virginia congressman gave Romney his first endorsement from the GOP congressional leadership, saying on NBC's Meet the Press that Mitt Romney is the man for this year and calling the economy the most important issue of the 2012 campaign season.

I believe this is a historic election. There's no question about it, the kinds of challenges we face, Cantor, who praised Romney's pro-growth, pro-jobs outlook, asserted. He is the only one in the race who has put forward [the solutions we need], and I think he can beat Barack Obama in November.

Notable Half-Endorsement: Former President George H. W. Bush

I think Romney is the best choice for us, George H. W. Bush told the Houston Chronicle in late December 2011, explaining why he preferred him to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom Bush claimed he liked but who didn't seem to be going anywhere.

He's a fine person, the former U.S. president, vice president, CIA director, ambassador to China and legislator said. I just think he's mature and reasonable -- not a bomb-thrower.

Despite these words of praise, however, a spokesman for Bush told CBS News that his expression of support for Mitt Romney should be viewed as an unofficial endorsement, not an official one, and Bush has yet to change that stance.

Rick Santorum: Top 5 Endorsements So Far

Santorum's endorsements have been somewhat more diverse than Romney's, ranging from controversial legislators like anti-gay legislator Sally Kern of Oklahoma and Tea Party groups across the nation to former Reaganites and conservative talk-show hosts. Most of them, however, tended to support him for two crucial reasons: first, that he appeared to be a steadfast and uncompromising conservative, and second, that he had the best chance of energizing the GOP's blue-collar base.

1. American Values President Gary Bauer

Bauer has an impressive list of conservative credentials.

After serving for eight years in the Reagan administration as undersecretary of education and chief domestic Policy Adviser, he also served as senior vice president of Focus on the Family and as president of the Family Research Council. He is also a published author and current chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, a political action committee dedicated to getting pro-family, pro-life candidates into public office.

The 2012 election will be the most important election of this generation. It will likely determine the kind of country our children and grandchildren inherit, Gary Bauer said in his official endorsement.

America can continue down the road of Obama deficits, big government, higher taxes and slow growth or we can chose Rick Santorum's vision of a strong, growing, confident America -- the 'shining city on a hill' that Ronald Reagan constantly called us to be, Bauer added.

In an earlier New York Times interview before the January endorsement, Bauer indicated that his support for Santorum also sprang from what he saw among the conservative's base -- undying loyalty.

In an election like that [one that is drawn-out and nasty], you want the base of your party to be on fire for the candidate, he said. Santorum is building that fire among the base. He has the potential to bring a lot of middle-class and working-class voters to his banner if he got the nomination.

2. Former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo

You know, the media would have you think that the race is essentially over, Tancredo said in his official endorsement for Rick Santorum in February.

Untrue. ... This thing is far from over.

Tancredo, who made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2008 and for governor of Colorado in 2010, urged supporters to do something historic in 2012: vote for someone who was not simply a composite candidate whose positions are nuanced to fit the time and place to which they are speaking.

They take a part of someone here and a part of something here and a part of something there, and they put together a candidate for that event ... and it leaves you really wondering, what is that person all about? he argued.

Tancredo went on to argue that the most crucial struggle in the U.S. was what is happening to the family structure in America today, calling it in a way, the basis of Western civilization.

Someone has to stand up and say, 'I am drawing a line in the sand here. We're not going any further in that direction,' he said, also saluting Santorum for his positions on immigration, Tancredo's No. 1 issue.

3. National Federation of Republican Assemblies

The NFRA, which bills itself as the nation's oldest and largest Republican volunteer organization, awarded Rick Santorum its official endorsement (with Herman Cain in second as a possible VP candidate) after the former Pennsylvania senator won the grassroots organization's presidential preference straw poll in late October 2011.

We endorse candidates in contested primaries, so rank-and-file Republicans can know who the true conservative candidates really are, the NFRA, which calls itself the Republican wing of the Republican Party, explained on its website.

We shuck the corn with highly competitive grassroots endorsing conventions ... and when we're done, there's no question who is who.

4. Conservative Commentator Mark Levin

Levin, whose hosting gig on The Mark Levin Show makes him the fourth most listened-to political talk radio host in the country, served in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration and was a chief of staff to then-Attorney General Edwin Meese.

Before the Iowa caucus, Levin, who is also a successful author, announced his unofficial joint endorsement of both Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann, calling them consistent conservatives who both displayed a really high level of character.

[They are] people I would trust without thought in the Oval Office to do the right thing -- or at least to try to do the right thing -- for my principled position most of the time, Levin, who also heads the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation, commented, stressing that it was his own opinion and not that of the LLF.

He also rejected the idea that Santorum and Bachmann were essentially unelectable.

I also believe Bachmann or Santorum -- if they were to be nominated -- could beat Obama or I wouldn't say that those are two of the people that I would consider voting for, he asserted. I think they absolutely could.

5. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine

In a surprising reversal on Feb. 17, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine switched his allegiance from Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum while helping the latter campaign in Ohio.

For some time now, it has been clear to me that Rick Santorum should be the Republican nominee for President, DeWine said in a statement from the Santorum campaign.

To be frank, I've had some sleepless nights. I could not, in good conscience, be on record endorsing Governor Romney when I knew in my heart that Rick Santorum was the better candidate, the former U.S. senator said.

You have to give the American people a reason to vote for you -- a reason to hope -- a reason to believe that under your leadership, America will be better, he concluded. Rick Santorum has done that. Sadly, Governor Romney has not.

Notable Half-Endorsement: News Corp. Owner Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch may not have given his official endorsement to the former Pennsylvania senator, but his tweets leading up to the Iowa caucus made leanings clear.

Can't resist this tweet, but all Iowans think about Rick Santorum, Rupert Murdoch posted on Twitter on Jan. 2. Only candidate with genuine big vision for country.

Newt Gingrich: Top 5 Endorsements So Far

Newt Gingrich has garnered the most endorsements from former (and failed) presidential and vice presidential candidates of any contender so far, all of whom cite his experience, his eloquence and the very combativeness that has alienated some voters as the qualities that make him ideal not only to beat Obama but to act as president. Many of those speaking out for Gingrich worked with him as speaker of the House, with his supporters claiming that his tough skin and former position as one of the most powerful men in America makes him uniquely suited to the role of commander-in-chief.

1. Former Presidential Candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry

I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform this country, Perry said, dropping out of the campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich in January.

Newt is not perfect, but who among us is? the three-time governor continued.

Perry also made the case against Barack Obama and Gingrich's rivals in the primary, saying only Gingrich had heart of a conservative reformer, the ability to rally and captivate the conservative movement and the courage to tell the Washington interests to take a hike if it's what is best for the country.

1. Former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain

Herman Cain, another former presidential candidate, also endorsed Newt Gingrich for president in January, calling him the best man to take on the crisis of leadership in the White House.

I hereby officially and enthusiastically endorse Newt Gingrich for president of the United States, Cain told the crowd in Florida, praising Gingrich for his boldness, his innovation and his commitment to the American people.

Speaker Gingrich is a patriot. Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas. And I also know that Speaker Gingrich is running for president and going through this sausage-grinder [for the good of America], Cain said.

I know what this sausage-grinder is all about, he added, an oblique reference to the sexual harassment scandals that doomed his own campaign. I know he is going through this sausage-grinder because he cares about the future of the United States of America.

3. Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson

This is a time for fundamental change, and if we don't, we're going to be in real trouble in this country, Fred Thompson said in January. And I think Newt Gingrich is the man to do that.

Thompson, perhaps as well as known as the actor whose voice introduces Law & Order as for his political career as a Senate Watergate counsel and senator from Tennessee, scorned those on both sides of the aisle who see Gingrich as a polarizing figure who would divide the nation.

Newt tells you what his opinion is, Thompson said, taking aim at candidates like Mitt Romney who have been mocked for being moderate and skirting the issues. Newt is just Newt.

In fact, Gingrich's combativeness is for Thompson the very quality that makes him the candidate to beat against Obama.

Pointing out the attacks that have already begun against the candidates, from the Obama campaign and the edia, Thompson argued that Gingrich was the only one who was going to be able to stand in the gale and withstand that. He also asserted that Gingrich, far more than Romney, Santorum or Paul, would best be able to put the Democratic incumbent on the defensive in the general election.

4. Tea Party Nation Founder Judson Philips

When Gingrich entered Congress, the Republicans were a minority, Judson Phillips wrote in a blog post officially endorsing the candidate in September 2011.

The Democrats treated the Republicans with contempt and the GOP leadership was perfectly happy to be in the minority. Gingrich changed that. He was the man with the vision to make a Republican majority possible.

Phillips, who helped organize the first National Tea Party Convention in 2010, called Gingrich a big idea man, likening him to Ronald Reagan and praising his experience in Congress and his performances in debates.

Gingrich against Obama is a great contrast, Phillips concluded, praising his track record and claiming he was responsible for everything from welfare reform to balancing the budget.

Newt Gingrich is the right candidate to not only help us take this country back from socialism, but roll socialism back.

5. Texas Rep. Joe Barton

Barton's endorsement was notable for coming less than 24 hours after Gingrich entered the race last year, and he was the first lawmaker to publicly endorse the former speaker.

A former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Barton is now in his 14th term, and like Phillips praised his old friend in Congress as an ideas man whose experience as speaker already showed he could handle one of the most powerful offices in the country.

He's battle-tested, Barton said on C-SPAN. He knows the issues ... I could easily see him sitting in the Oval Office being president of the United State for all American citizens.

I think he'd be a great president, he continued. I have talked to him already and promised to help in his campaign and endorse him, if he thinks it helps his campaign.

Notable Half-Endorsement: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin's husband Todd may have officially endorsed Gingrich for president, but the former vice presidential candidate appears to value him more as a campaign presence than as a viable candidate.

Before the South Carolina primary, Palin claimed she would vote for Gingrich if she were a resident of the state, but gave as her reason the idea that iron sharpens iron [and] steel sharpens steel, and so Gingrich's presence in the race made it a stronger one for all the candidates.

She told Fox News before Super Tuesday that the fact that the GOP establishment appeared to be opposing Gingrich's candidacy was proof in and of itself that he is no longer a part of it.

Again, however, and despite admitting that she voted for Gingrich in the Alaska caucus, Palin's main motivation was to rage against the machine (a category that apparently includes Mitt Romney), telling voters to vote for Gingrich to annoy a liberal and keep this vetting process going, keep the debate going.

Ron Paul: Top 5 Endorsements So Far

Texas Rep. Ron Paul has perhaps the most eclectic collection of endorsements out there, with everyone from Chuck Norris and director Oliver Stone to Louisiana GOP Central Committeeman Harold Williams and former Belknap County, N.H., Democratic Committee chair Lynn Rudmin Chong, who changed her party allegiance to independent so she could vote for Paul in the primary. But while the reasons for supporting his candidacy could also be considered more varied than others in the race, two criteria appeared to speak the loudest in favor of his presidency: Paul's commitment to tackling the budget and trimming the debt, and his non-interventionist and libertarian policies at home and abroad.

1. South Carolina State Sen. Tom Davis

Six days before the state's presidential primary in January, Ron Paul was officially endorsed by Republican Sen. Tom Davis of South Carolina.

Though the endorsement didn't do too much to help Paul in the primary, where he placed fourth, Davis was the first prominent Southerner to endorse the Texas congressman, proof that Paul could appeal to voters below the Mason-Dixon line as well as in more traditional libertarian hubs in the North.

At the end of the day, when I sat down, I realized there were a lot of good people running for this race, Davis said in his endorsement, declining to speak ill of the other candidates.

But there's only one person, there's only one person speaking to what I believe is the core problem of our country today ... debt.

Davis, rising fast due to his reputation as a highly regarded fiscal conservative and for his currency with the Tea Party, praised Paul as the only candidate talking about the debt problem to the degree, at the scale and with the scope that it needs to be talked about.

You can't nibble around the edges anymore.

Paul, speaking to CNN after Davis' announcement, called it a great victory for his campaign, and predicted that the endorsement would bring a lot of attention for me.

2. Economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Taleb, a Lebanese-American author, IMF adviser and former professor, is best known for his 2007 work The Black Swan: the Impact of the Highly Improbable, which focuses on the impact of rare and unpredictable events called outliers and society's dangerous tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events retrospectively. The Sunday Times has hailed the work as one of the 12 most influential books since World War II.

In a strong endorsement of Paul in early March, Taleb said he could not resist coming out of hiding in academia to express his admiration and support for the candidate.

Only one candidate, Ron Paul, seems to have grasped the issues, and is offering the right remedies, Taleb said on CNBC.

The essayist praised him for having the guts to go after the Fed, and for rejecting the idea that America's greatest strength, its resilience, could ever be aided by government bailouts.

I'm not a libertarian, Taleb, who considers himself an independent, felt obligated to mention. I'm not coming from a political standpoint, but from a risk-based view of the world.

He also said he supported Ron Paul regardless of his odds of actually winning the nomination.

Whether he has one percent or 99 percent, I'm supporting him, he said. It's my duty as a citizen, as a person who lives here [in the U.S.] and as a taxpayer who doesn't want to be hoodwinked by bureaucrats.

3. Former CIA Bin Laden Unit Chief Michael Scheuer

Scheuer, once chief of the Bin Laden issue station and special adviser to the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, is now a published author and an outspoken critic of both mainline Republicans and Democrats, especially on foreign policy.

In his endorsement of Paul in December 2011, which doubled as an impassioned defense of the candidate's policies, Scheuer fought back against pro-Israel/pro-intervention leaders spreading damnable lies about Paul's credentials and suggestions.

In the words of Dr. Paul's Republican opponents, the Obamaites, and most of the media ... Iowans ought to easily be able to hear the elitist, racist, and war-causing Wilsonian doctrine of intervening abroad to impose democracy and secular social beliefs on foreigners at the point of bayonets, Scheuer wrote.

The former CIA operative named Paul the candidate with the fullest grasp of the situation at home and abroad, praising him as the only one brave enough and smart enough to say so.

For Iowans and Americans as a whole, then, the best choice for their children, grandchildren, and country clearly lies in the Founders' foreign policy wisdom, and Dr. Paul's sturdy advocacy and promised application thereof, he concluded.

4. Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura

Ventura, a former WWF wrestler and published author, won the Minnesota governorship in 1998 as a Reform party candidate who used grassroots events and unusual ads to persuade local residents not to vote for politics as usual.

He also distinguished himself, along with his position as someone fiscally conservative and socially liberal, as a very outspoken opponent of President George W. Bush.

In 2009, Ventura called Bush the worst president of his lifetime, adding that President Obama inherited something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that in late December 2011 Ventura gave his official endorsement for Ron Paul's campaign.

Ron Paul has Gov. Jesse Ventura's endorsement without a doubt, he said on Alex Jones' Info Wars radio show. It's not even close... I want a new president that is going to change the direction of this country. I want a new president that is going to follow the Constitution. I want a new president that is going to believe in states' rights. I want somebody that will shock the status quo.

Ventura slammed the media's general portrayal of Paul's policies as scary, especially in the realm of foreign policy, and argued that there had not been a president since John F. Kennedy who appeared to be as dedicated to peace and opposed to a perpetual war agenda than Ron Paul.

It's a simple as this, he concluded. If people truly are looking for an attempt at change in this country - changing who are and what we will be in the future - then there is only one candidate, and that is Congressman Ron Paul.

5. Former Assistant Secretary of Treasury Paul Craig Roberts

Roberts, an economist and former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Business Week, is widely considered one of the founders of Reaganomics, having testified before congressional committees on 30 occasions on issues of economic policy.

In his endorsement of Paul in mid-January, Roberts began with a question (Why is Ron Paul America's last chance?) before devoting an entire column to his answer.

He is the only candidate who is not owned lock, stock, and barrel by the military-security complex, Wall Street, and the Israel Lobby, Roberts, an outspoken critic of America's pro-Israel policies, wrote. If Ron Paul is not elected president in this year's election, by 2016, American liberty will be in a forgotten grave in a forgotten graveyard.

In the same column, however, Roberts also stated that there was no way Paul would actually be elected president, pointing to the brainwashed American citizenry and the effect liberals would have on Congress and powerful interest groups as his reasons.

Nonetheless, Roberts stood by his endorsement, and urged others to cast their votes for Paul as well.

The reason we should vote for Ron Paul is to signal to the powers-that-be that we understand what they are doing to us, he wrote.

If Paul were to receive a large vote, it could ... introduce some caution into the establishment that would slow the march into more war and tyranny, he concluded, adding that it would also make Washington's puppet states more cautious and less cooperative with Washington's drive for world hegemony.

Notable Half-Endorsement: John Garver, Rick Santorum's Nephew

In The Trouble With My Uncle Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator's nephew told Americans that they should vote for him only if they wanted another big-government politician who supports the status quo to run our country.

It is because of this inability of status quo politicians to recognize the importance of our individual liberties that I have been drawn to Ron Paul, Garver wrote in a column for the Daily Caller. Unlike my uncle, he does not believe that the American people are incapable of forming decisions. He believes that an individual is more powerful than any group (a notion our founding fathers also believed in).

Garver's opinion piece, written despite his love for family member Rick Santorum, was not an official endorsement from an elected politician or organization.

The 19-year-old's statement, however, was a powerful indicator of youth support for the congressman from Texas.

This year, I'll vote for an honest change in our government, Garver concluded. I'll vote for real hope. I'll vote for a real leader. This year, I will vote for Ron Paul.

But John Garver is not the only family member of a rival candidate to jump ship for Ron Paul. On March 5, a news release from the Paul campaign announced that no less than five of Romney's cousins were supporting Paul for the 2012 Republican nomination.