(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
Mitt Romney's endorsement list keeps growing longer by the day and now he's added two names that will most certainly move to the top of the list – former President George H.W. Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
The elder Bush offered Romney a "soft" endorsement last fall when he told the Houston Chronicle that he thought Romney was a "reasonable guy, a conservative fellow" and that he would make a "very good president."
Bush is scheduled to offer his formal endorsement in a late-afternoon press conference today in Houston. Both former first lady Barbara Bush and her son, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have also offered their support to the former Massachusetts governor.
Rubio, who is seen as a rising star in the GOP and is being discussed as a potential VP, gave his endorsement on Wednesday on Fox News.
"It's increasingly clear that Mitt Romney's going to be the Republican nominee," Rubio told Sean Hannity. "We've got to come together behind who I think has earned this nomination and that's Mitt Romney."
Like the elections in 2000 and 2008, Florida and Ohio are seen as critical swing states and the key endorsements from Florida heavyweights such as Rubio and Jeb Bush will go a long way in solidifying the state's heavy Latino population.
While Rubio is high on Romney leading the GOP against President Obama in November, he quickly backs away from any discussion of his role as a possible running mate.
"It's not going to happen," the Florida senator told MSNBC on Wednesday. "I'm obviously flattered that people think about me that way. There are some things I'd like to get done here in the United States Senate. I'm enjoying the role we have here."
Still, Jeb Bush told the Pittsburg Tribune-Review last week that Romney would be wise to offer the VP slot to Rubio. "He's the best orator of American politics today, a good family man. He is not only a consistent conservative, but he has managed to find a way to communicate a conservative message full of hope and optimism."
Another advantage for Romney is that with so many key and influential Republicans starting to hop on his bandwagon, it could signal the GOP primary is coming to a close.
David French, a long-time Romney supporter and constitutional scholar, says that Super Tuesday was the "beginning of the end" of the GOP race for the White House and that Republicans from all ranks are now lining up behind Romney's candidacy.
"I think when you see Rubio, who is popular with Tea Party activists and Bush, Sr., who built his political legacy as a GOP moderate, both endorse Mitt, it demonstrates his true appeal across the Republican spectrum," French told The Christian Post. "To say that Mitt only attracts moderates is not an accurate statement. Lots of fiscal and social conservatives have been on board with him for a while."
The Real Clear Politics national average of GOP polls has Romney leading the field with 37 percent of the vote over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum who has 29 percent. Both former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Texas Congressman Ron Paul are further behind with 15 and 12 percent, respectively.