Romney locks in Rubio, Bush endorsements

03-29-2012, 02h42

White House frontrunner Mitt Romney earned the endorsement of Senator Marco Rubio, but the rising Republican star often discussed as a potential vice presidential pick said he does not want to be on the ticket.

Rubio said he endorsed the ex-governor of Massachusetts in part because of a concern that a prolonged primary battle leading all the way to the national nominating convention could ultimately hurt Republican chances to defeat incumbent Barack Obama in November.

"I think we are at a stage where two of the candidates have openly admitted, the only way they can win a nomination is to have a floor fight in Tampa in August," he told Fox News.

"I think it's a recipe for disaster," he added. "We have to come together behind who I think has earned the nomination and that's Mitt Romney."

Rubio also sought to tamp down concern that Romney was too moderate of a Republican to fire up the party's conservative base.

"I have zero doubt in my mind about two things: number one, that Mitt Romney will govern as a conservative, and number two, that he will be head and shoulders better than the guy in the White House."

Romney earned a double backing of sorts, with his campaign announcing that former president George H.W. Bush will also endorse the frontrunner, at an event Thursday in Texas.

Bush's son Jeb Bush, the onetime governor of Rubio's state of Florida, announced his support for Romney last week.

Rubio's nod is important -- as a young Cuban-American who switches effortlessly between English and Spanish, he can help pull in the large and influential Hispanic vote, especially in swing states like Florida crucial in the general election.

"Marco Rubio is living proof that the American dream is still very much alive," Romney said in a statement after the endorsement. "From humble origins, he has risen to become one of the brightest lights in our political party."

But with buzz about a possible Rubio vice presidential nod growing louder, Rubio seemed eager to put that talk to rest.

"I am very honored and privileged to serve this country in the United States Senate" and the people of Florida, he said.

"I don't believe I will be asked to be the vice-presidential nominee. That's not what I intend to be (or) what I want to be and that's not what is going to happen."

Romney is ahead in the nomination race with 565 delegates, followed by Rick Santorum with 256, Newt Gingrich with 141 and Ron Paul with 66, according to the Real Clear Politics website. A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to clinch the nomination.