Mitt Romney picked up one of the most sought-after endorsements of the 2012 presidential race Wednesday when former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush gave Romney his backing.
Romney's critics immediately said the endorsement won't mean much and that it was an example of how the GOP establishment was trying to push Romney to the nomination despite doubts among grass roots conservatives. "It's a completion of the establishment trifecta," said a spokesman for Romney rival Newt Gingrich. He was referring to former President George H.W. Bush (Jeb Bush's father) and former Sen. Bob Dole, the GOP's nominee in 1996, two other GOP leaders who have also endorsed Romney.
GOP strategists say the endorsement is another sign that Romney has solidified his position as the GOP front-runner.
In a statement, Jeb Bush argued that, in the wake of Romney's victory in the Illinois GOP presidential primary Tuesday and Romney's strong lead in nominating delegates, it's "time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney."
Bush, who remains popular in the key battleground state of Florida, added: "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."
Romney also got some good news Wednesday when officials at FreedomWorks, a conservative Tea Party organization, announced that the group is no longer opposing Romney's nomination. FreedomWorks had said in the past that Romney was too moderate, but the group's leaders now say he has taken a conservative approach of which they approve.