1. Jeb Bush Endorses Mitt Romney
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush delivered his highly anticipated and much-sought-after presidential campaign endorsement to Mitt Romney in March of 2012, after most states including his own already held their primaries and caucuses. He called for Republicans to united behind Romney.
"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,” Bush said in a prepared statement.
Bush's endorsement of Romney was important because of its timing. He announced his support amid a protracted and increasingly bitter nomination battle between Romney and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Bush's endorsement was a signal the Romney would ultimately become the party's choice to challenge President Barack Obama in the fall.
2. Chris Christie Endorses Mitt Romney
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was among the first major presidential campaign endorsements scored by the Romney campaign. Christie announced his support for Romney in October 2011, a move that reaffirmed the former Massachusetts governor's status as the front-runner.
"If you look at Governor Romney’s experience — his experience in the private sector, running businesses, turning them around, going in there and telling the people the truth about what needed to be done, and then coming up with a plan to get it done, and you look at his experience as an elected official, we know that he brings the best of both to what we need for America right now," Christie said at a news conference in New Hampshire. "He brings that great, private sector experience and he brings the experience as governor of Massachusetts, knowing how government works."
Christie's endorsement of Romney was important because Christie is popular among both Tea Party and moderate establishment Republicans. He was also encouraged to run for president himself in Election 2012.
3. Sarah Palin Endorses Newt Gingrich*
Yes, there's an asterisk. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may not have officially given her stamp of approval to Newt Gingrich, but the 2008 vice presidential nominee and Tea Party favorite clearly indicated her support of the former House speaker in comments that gave his campaign a boost.
Palin told Fox News before the South Carolina primary in January that she would vote for Gingrich. And if that's not an endorsement, what is? The context, however, is key. Palin indicated that her vote for Gingrich was a vote to keep the nomination battle going and make front-runner Mitt Romney earn the nomination.
“If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I’d vote for Newt,” Palin said on Fox News. “With the front-runner and with all the candidates, there are still too many questions."
4. Herman Cain Endorses Newt Gingrich
"Speaker Gingrich is a patriot. Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas,” Cain said. "And I also know that Speaker Gingrich is running for president and going through this sausage grinder — I know what this sausage grinder is all about. I know he is going through this sausage grinder because he cares about the future of the United States of America."
Cain's plainspokenness and status as an outsider made him popular among conservative Republicans. His endorsement of Gingrich was important because it signaled those voters to get behind the former House speaker.
5. James Dobson Endorses Rick Santorum
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson's endorsement of Rick Santorum was not a surprise, but it was influential in that it signaled evangelical Christian voters to get behind the former U.S. senator's presidential campaign.
"The institution of the family is the key issue facing this great nation. It is the foundation, the bedrock, upon which every dimension of Western Civilization rests ... Of all the Republican candidates who are vying for the presidency, former Sen. Santorum is the one who has spoken passionately in every debate about this concern." Dobson said in a prepared statement announcing his endorsement of Santorum.
"He has pleaded with the nation and its leaders to come to the aid of marriages, parents, and their children. What a refreshing message."