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The next big endorsements for Mitt Romney

at 12:44 PM ET, 03/22/2012

Mitt Romney landed one of the biggest fish left in the GOP endorsement pond on Wednesday in Jeb Bush , and the thinking among many in the GOP is that the party will begin publicly coalescing around the former Massachusetts governor soon.

But what would that look like? How will we know when that’s happening?

Below, we look at the endorsements Romney can get that would signal such a shift — followed by some endorsements that he probably can’t or won’t get (until the race is decided, at least).

What did we miss? The comments section awaits. (And be sure to check out the Post’s endorsement tracker for the latest on who’s backing who.)

ENDORSEMENTS ROMNEY CAN GET

* Rand Paul: This one makes too much sense. The Kentucky senator’s dad, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), of course is
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) walks through the Senate Subway at the U.S. Capitol in August. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
still a candidate, so nothing’s happening while he’s still in the race. But Ron Paul and Romney have been friendly on the campaign trail for a long time, and now that the elder Paul’s campaign seems to have wound down in recent weeks, there are increasing rumors about Romney’s team cutting a deal with him.

What better way to cement the alliance than have Ron Paul drop out and Rand Paul endorse Romney? It would certainly help Romney with the tea party, but it might not sit well with Paul’s base.

* Paul Ryan: The House Budget Committee chairman has been very friendly with Romney, and Romney repaid the favor by endorsing Ryan’s just-released budget (while Rick Santorum criticized it). So why not make it official? Ryan is very popular with the conservative base. (Plus: Romney was reportedly set to meet with Ryan on Thursday.)

* Haley Barbour: Barbour hinted this morning that the party may soon coalesce around Romney, and a Barbour endorsement would be a major sign of that. At the same time, Barbour has a big role at the neutral GOP super PAC, American Crossroads, and we have to wonder whether the guy perhaps most-associated with the GOP establishment would actually help Romney or just foment the opposition. This one may not help as much as the others.

* Mitch Daniels: The Indiana governor is playing hard-to-get, insisting that his endorsement doesn’t really matter. Don’t get us wrong; we don’t think his endorsement would necessarily mean much for Romney, besides potentially helping him in the Indiana primary on May 8. But the two fit nicely together politically, and it’s not hard to see Daniels offering his stamp of approval.

* Marco Rubio: Like Ryan, Rubio has bolstered Romney without actually endorsing him. When Newt Gingrich had momentum in Florida, Rubio slammed a Gingrich TV ad that labeled Romney “anti-immigrant” — a moment Romney’s campaign saw as a turning point in a very key state. Much like Rand Paul, this would speak to a segment of the GOP that Romney would really like to capture.

* Sarah Palin: The former Alaska governor has a way of inserting herself into the dialogue every couple of months, and what better way to do it again than launch a game-changing (forgive the phrasing) endorsements in the GOP presidential race? Palin has been pretty pro-Gingrich, but she hasn’t endorsed him, he’s struggling, and she could still do Romney some good with the base. And it might do her more benefit than Romney.

ENDORSEMENTS ROMNEY CAN’T OR WON’T GET

* Mitch McConnell: The Senate GOP leader has pledged total neutrality throughout the process, which is probably a good thing for a guy whose party has already suffered a backlash in a bunch of Senate primaries. “Sen. McConnell doesn’t endorse in the primary, and won’t until there’s a nominee,” spokesman Don Stewart said.

* John Boehner: See above, and add in the fact that the House speaker is also the chairman of the Republican National Convention. In other words, if there is a contested convention, he needs to be the neutral arbiter. Don’t expect him to endorse unless and until there is a clear presumptive nominee.

* Jim DeMint: DeMint backed Romney in 2008, but since then, he has focused his time and energy on creating a more conservative GOP caucus in the U.S. Senate — like a laser. He wants no part of the presidential race, and if he endorsed, it probably wouldn’t be Romney. (Romney is also reportedly meeting with him Tuesday, but his spokesman says it has nothing to do with a possible endorsement. And we believe him.)

* George W. Bush: Jeb Bush’s and George H.W. Bush’s endorsements are about as close as Romney wants to get to the 43rd president. Dubya isn’t as unpopular as he once was, but Romney needs to have an eye on the general election. And the last thing he needs is for the 2012 campaign to be all about Bush’s role in the economic collapse, etc.

* Mike Huckabee: Despite being friendly with his former nemesis Romney, the former Arkansas governor and Fox News host has suggested he will stay neutral throughout the primaries, and there’s really no reason for him to get involved unless he thinks it might help save the party from some discord. Huckabee would also risk turning off the same social conservatives that make up his base. He’s got a very important — a financially lucrative — brand to protect.

 
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