Republicans Coalescing Around Romney, Finally

Romney garners support from top Republicans.

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Mitt Romney surely wanted the Republican dominoes to fall for him a lot earlier than April.

Like, maybe in January, after the New Hampshire primary. But he's got to like the love coming his way now.

In recent days, the former Massachusetts governor has been endorsed in the GOP presidential race by popular conservative Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former President George H.W. Bush and embraced – but not officially endorsed – by Tea Party kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

The front-runner, campaigning in Wisconsin ahead of Tuesday's primary, also picked up the support of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan on Friday. Ryan is both well-liked in the Badger State and a leading conservative economic voice in Washington.

[See photos of the 2012 GOP candidates.]

"We need to coalesce as conservatives around Mitt Romney," he said on Fox News Friday morning.

Romney is leading his three rivals in recent Wisconsin polls by seven to 10 percentage points.

The Republican race, now ending its third month of primary contests, has dragged on much longer than usual. Romney is best known as a moderate Republican from Massachusetts but has worked hard over his two presidential campaigns to burnish his conservative bona fides. Now that Romney is solidly in the lead in the delegate race, the conservative establishment that had been reluctant to weigh in is eager to end the bruising intraparty battle.

But that doesn't mean Romney's rivals are going anywhere.

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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul have continued to release campaign schedules and repeatedly say they will continue to compete until Republicans convene in Tampa at the end of the summer to officially nominate their standard-bearer.

Gingrich did concede to a Milwaukee radio station on Friday that Romney "is clearly the front-runner" and "will probably" be the nominee.

At a campaign event also on Friday, Romney's team reportedly warmed up the crowd by playing Kenny Rogers' 'The Gambler,' whose lyrics Bush quoted when endorsing Romney.

"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em," Bush said on Thursday.

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