Jeb Bush endorses Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney's good week just got better with a coveted endorsement from former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

The brother and son of former presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush said that now is the time for Republican voters to "to unite behind Governor Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall."

This week, Romney has won primary elections in both Puerto Rico and Illinois, expanding his lead over Rick Santorum by 60 delegates and putting him 300 delegates ahead of the former Senator. Romney has now amassed a total of 563 delegates out of the 1,144 needed to clinch the Republican nomination and take on President Obama in November's general election.

Jeb Bush, who spent eight years as the governor of Florida, from 1998 to 2006, is a Republican heavyweight whom many assumed would enter the nomination race. His father, former President George H.W. Bush, also endorsed Romney in December.

Romney has the most endorsements in the race from elected officials, including former governors Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman, both of whom dropped out of the nomination fight. He also boasts an endorsement from New Jersey governor Chris Christie, whom many Republicans also hoped would throw his hat in the ring.

Fellow wannabe nominees Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have, however, vowed to stay in the race, with Gingrich's spokesman, R.C. Hammond, reportedly stating that Bush's endorsement is merely the "the completion of the establishment trifecta", in reference to Bush's father and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

 

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Emmanuel Macron offers Theresa May no comfort on Brexit

The French presidential candidate warned that he would not accept "any caveat or any waiver" at a press briefing in London.

Emmanuel Macron, the new wunderkind of French politics, has brought his presidential campaign to London. The current favourite to succeed François Hollande has a natural electoral incentive to do so. London is home to 300,000 French voters, making it by France's sixth largest city by one count (Macron will address 3,000 people at a Westminster rally tonight). But the telegenic centrist also took the time to meet Theresa May and Philip Hammond and to hold a press briefing.

If May hoped that her invitation would help soften Macron's Brexit stance (the Prime Minister has refused to engage with his rival Marine Le Pen), she will have been left disappointed. Outside No.10, Macron declared that he hoped to attract "banks, talents, researchers, academics" away from the UK to France (a remark reminiscent of David Cameron's vow to "roll out the red carpet" for those fleeing Hollande). 

At the briefing at Westminster's Central Hall, Macron quipped: "The best trade agreement for Britain ... is called membership of the EU". With May determined to deliver Brexit, he suggested that the UK would have to settle for a Canadian-style deal, an outcome that would radically reduce the UK's market access. Macron emphasised that he took a a "classical, orthodox" view of the EU, regarding the "four freedoms" (of people, capital, goods and services) as indivisible. Were Britain to seek continued financial passporting, the former banker said, it would have to make a significant budget "contribution" and accept continued immigration. "The execution of Brexit has to be compliant with our interests and the European interest".

The 39-year-old avoided a nationalistic tone ("my perspective is not to say France, France, France") in favour of a "coordinated European approach" but was unambiguous: "I don't want to accept any caveat or any waiver to what makes the single market and the EU." Were the UK, as expected, to seek a transitional arrangement, it would have to accept the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Elsewhere, Macron insisted that his liberal economic stance was not an obstacle to his election. It would be fitting, he said, if the traditionally "contrarian" France embraced globalisation just as its counterparts were rejecting it. "In the current environment, if you're shy, you're dead," he declared. With his emotional, straight-talking approach (one derided by some as intellectually threadbare), Macron is seeking to beat the populists at their own game.

But his views on Brexit may yet prove academic. A poll published today showed him trailing centre-right candidate François Fillon (by 20-17) having fallen five points since his denunciation of French colonialism. Macron's novelty is both a strength and a weakness. With no established base (he founded his own party En Marche!), he is vulnerable to small swings in the public mood. If Macron does lose, it will not be for want of confidence. But there are unmistakable signs that his forward march has been halted. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.