- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Wednesday, a day after the former Massachusetts governor further cemented his front-runner status in the GOP race with a lopsided victory in 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,” Mr. Bush said in a a statement.

“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,” he said.

Mr. Bush is the brother and son of former Presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, respectively. He endorsed Mr. Romney in 2008 but had stayed out of the race up until this point, fueling rumors that he might run himself.

He also has advocated strongly for his party to take a softer tone in the national debate over immigration, winning him some respect among Hispanics, the fastest-growing population in the nation, which is expected to be a key voting bloc in the presidential election.

That respect could prove beneficial to Mr. Romney, who has taken a tough line on illegal immigration up tol this point in the campaign.

Mr. Bush’s support adds to the momentum Mr. Romney carries out of Illinois, where he grabbed 43 more delegates, extending his lead over former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania to 300 in the race toward the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination.

Mr. Romney now has 563 delegates. Mr. Santorum received 10 more delegates out of Illinois, increasing his overall catch to 263. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich now has 153 delegates, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul has 50.

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