Search International Hotels
Marco Rubio, seen as one of the rising starts of the Republican party, has endorsed Mitt Romney. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney's bandwagon is gaining speed, with Florida senator Marco Rubio, one of the most sought-after endorsements, announcing on Wednesday night he will back him.
Rubio is one of the rising stars of the party and seen as a future presidential candidate. He is popular with the Tea party and, as a Cuban-American, might win over some of the Latino voters being lost as a result of the party's immigration policy.
He is frequently mentioned at the top of lists speculating on whom Romney might pick as his running mate.
It comes on top of former president George H Bush's endorsement of Romney in Houston, Texas, and the endorsement last week of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor.
Interviewed on Fox on Wednesday night, Rubio said: "Well, I am endorsing Mitt Romney and the reason why is not only is he going to be the Republican nominee but he offers at this point such a stark contrast to the president's record."
Rubio added to the pressure on the other candidates to quit the race. "All the candidates in this race have a lot to be proud of. They have offered a lot to the debate. But I just can't buy into this idea that by their own admission, they are saying the only way they can win this race is by having a floor fight in Tampa in August. I think that's a recipe to deliver four more years to Barack Obama and our country."
The endorsement of George Bush Sr comes in spite of his wife, Barbara, recently dismissing the 2012 campaign as "the worst campaign I've ever seen in my life".
Although Bush months ago signalled his support for Romney, it is helpful publicity for Romney in a quiet week without any primaries or caucuses for the two to be pictured together.
The senior Bush's presidency turned sour at the end, with Republicans unhappy over a U-turn on raising taxes, but his reputation has improved in recent years. His decision after the Gulf war not to push on to Baghdad is now lauded as wise in some quarters after the debacle of the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Former president George W Bush has said he will not be endorsing any candidate.
Although his former boss is holding back, a senior member of the younger Bush's administration, John Bolton, is to campaign for Romney in Baltimore on Sunday ahead of Maryland's primary. Bolton, a foreign policy hawk and former US ambassador to the UN, announced in January he was endorsing Romney.
In recent days, Romney has picked up endorsements from: Mike Lee, a Utah senator who was elected with the support of the Tea party; Kevin McCarthy, the majority whip and the third most senior Republican in the House; and Al Cardenas, head of the American Conservative Union. They called on the party to unite behind Romney and for the three remaining candidates to quit the race.
Romney has 104 major endorsements: 13 governors, 18 senators - including Rubio - and 73 members of the House. The governors range across the Republican spectrum: the rightwinger Jan Brewer of Arizona; moderate Chris Christie from New Jersey; former Tea party favourite Nikki Haley of South Carolina; and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Senators include the 2008 White House candidate John McCain.
On top of this, Romney has the backing of hundreds of Republicans from state legislatures, party officials and newspapers across the country.
Competitor Rick Santorum, by contrast, has only a modest collection of endorsements. In spite of having served in the Senate, no senators are backing him, and he has just six supporters in the House. The Alabama governor, Robert Bentley, said he voted for Santorum in the state's primary this month.
Newt Gingrich has the support of two governors and 11 House members. Ron Paul has a senator — his son Rand — and three House members.