Romney’s Inevitability Argument Bolstered by Rubio Endorsement

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  March 29, 2012 at 9:38 AM EDT

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi participate in a news conference earlier this week. Rubio endorsed Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Wednesday.

The Morning Line

Sure, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich spent their days vowing to soldier on to the conventions. But as Mitt Romney scooped up even more big endorsements, the conversation was dominated by who could be his choice for a running mate.

That’s exactly the sort of general election momentum Team Romney has been hoping to sustain.

The latest sign of the Republican establishment coalescing around his candidacy came Wednesday night when Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whose name has been frequently mentioned as a potential vice presidential selection, endorsed Romney in an appearance on the Fox News Channel.

“In Mitt Romney, we have a candidate, an alternative, that in addition to being successful as a governor, running an important state in this country, has also been successful in the private sector and offers a very clear alternative to the direction this president is going to take our country,” Rubio told host Sean Hannity.

The freshman senator said Romney’s rivals should be “proud” of their efforts, but suggested it was now time for the party to unite behind one candidate.

“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,” Rubio said. “Our country cannot afford that. We have got to come together behind who I think has earned this nomination, and that’s Mitt Romney.”

While Romney would certainly rather have Rubio’s endorsement than the alternative — the fact is the nod from one of the party’s rising stars does very little to change the dynamic of the race at this stage. Romney still holds a significant delegate lead over his rivals and is the only Republican with a legitimate shot at winning the 1,144 needed to claim the nomination before the convention.

On Thursday, Romney will pick up yet another establishment nod — from former President George H.W. Bush — during a stop in Houston. The move follows the decision by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, one of the former president’s sons, to back Romney last week.

Despite the growing inevitability surrounding his march toward the Republican nomination, new polls continue to show trouble ahead for Romney when it comes to the general election.

A CNN/ORC International survey released Wednesday found President Obama leading Romney 54 to 43 percent in a potential general election contest, up from a five-point margin (51 to 46 percent) last month.

The president outperforms Romney among women (60 to 37 percent) and independents (55 to 40 percent), as well as in every geographic region of the country.

HEALTH CARE BONANZA

The NewsHour this week was the only organization to devote the top half of the program to thorough coverage and detailed analysis of the Supreme Court hearings on the health care reform law.

From audio of the proceedings and courtroom sketches (day three is here) to a detailed look at the people influencing the conversation outside the courtroom and an explainer on what would happen if the mandate goes away, Team NewsHour had you covered.

National Law Journal’s Marcia Coyle and Health Affairs’ Susan Dentzer, our dynamic duo on air each evening, on Wednesday night rounded out the coverage with Gwen Ifill to outline the day’s arguments.

Watch that segment here or below

Judy Woodruff talked with Reps. Peter Roskam, an Illinois Republican, and Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona, about the political and practical implications of the court’s decision-making.

Watch:

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Gingrich backer and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson talked with the Jewish Journal about Santorum. “I know Rick [Santorum]. I like him. We’re friendly. But I got to tell you something, I don’t want him running my country,” Adelson said. On Romney: “The problem with Romney – he’s not the bold decision maker like Newt Gingrich is. … Every time I talk to him he says ‘Well, let me think about it.’ Everything I’ve said to Mitt, ‘let me look into it.’”

  • Ahead of the Tuesday primary, voters in Wisconsin are reminded of a crack Romney made about his dad laying off workers in that state decades before. Here’s Craig Gilbert’s take in the Journal Sentinel.

  • NBC News on Santorum’s bowling.

  • Politico writes that Gingrich is risking his legacy by staying in the race.

  • Stuart Rothenberg (@stupolitics) declares the GOP presidential primary done and done.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama will appear on an episode of the Biggest Loser.

  • The Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson writes up Ron Paul’s visit to the University of Maryland on Wednesday.

  • Obama campaign manager Jim Messina went to Arkansas to open a new office.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama delivers remarks in the Rose Garden at 10:45 a.m. urging Congress to vote to end taxpayer subsidies for oil companies.

  • Vice President Biden attends campaign events in Milwaukee at 12:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m. and in Chicago at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney picks up the endorsement of former President George H.W. Bush in Houston at 5:50 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum delivers remarks on foreign policy in Fairfield, Calif., at 7 p.m.

  • Ron Paul holds a town hall in Madison, Wis., at 8 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich holds a rally in Marquette, Wis., at 8:30 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers and @suddinengel.