Mitt Romney's endorsements this week by two important Republicans — a former president and perhaps a not-too-distant-future presidential running mate — are not unexpected.
But the reasons former President George H.W. Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio give for backing the front-runner are a little less standard political fare.
In an interview with the Daily Caller, Rubio said that President Obama's open-mic moment on Monday at a nuclear summit in South Korea — when he was heard telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" on European missile defense after the November election — sealed the deal.
"It's been weighing on my mind all week," Rubio told the Daily Caller. "I'm just sitting back here and watching a president that just got back from overseas — where he told the Russian president to work with him and give him space so he can be more flexible if he gets re-elected. ... The stakes are so high."
Endorsements may help in fundraising, but they arguably have limited value in swaying voters. Republican primary and caucusgoers continue to keep the Rick Santorum campaign alive, even as Romney has collected the backing of major party players and even former rivals for the nomination.
But as National Journal political correspondent Beth Reinhard notes, Rubio's rationale in endorsing Romney could resonate with Republicans.
"I have zero doubt in my mind of two things," Rubio told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday, in making his endorsement. "No. 1, that Mitt Romney will govern as a conservative, and No. 2, that he will be head and shoulders better than the guy who is in the White House right now."
Writes Reinhard: "Expect to see those words sooner rather than later in a television ad."
Rubio, a Cuban-American who is popular with conservatives and the Tea Party, is considered to be a serious contender for the vice presidential slot on any 2012 Republican ticket.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza writes:
In just the last 9 days — since Romney won the Illinois primary — he has been endorsed by former Florida governor Jeb Bush and former President George H.W. Bush while leading tea party Senator Jim DeMint has said kind things about him and Freedomworks, a tea-party aligned group, has dropped its opposition to him as the nominee.
Add Rubio's support into that mix and it's clear that the slew of endorsements for Romney in recent days have done something for the Massachusetts governor that winning primaries had not: Make clear he is the Republican presidential nominee.
Romney scheduled a Thursday visit to the Houston offices of the 41st president to formally receive the Bush endorsement.
In December, Bush less formally backed Romney over even the state's governor, Rick Perry, who was then in the race, telling the Houston Chronicle: "I think Romney is the best choice for us."
At the time, Bush cited Romney's "stability, experience, principles. He's a fine person," Bush said. "I just think he's mature and reasonable — not a bomb-thrower."
And of the flip-flopper label sometimes pinned on Romney?
"It was a charge that was used against me," Bush told the Houston Chronicle. " 'No new taxes' — remember that? I don't think it's significant. He's got a record as governor, and people change their mind. I don't take that criticism very seriously."