Washington – Conservative Florida Senator Marco Rubio threw his support behind Mitt Romney Wednesday night and called upon his party to do the same, arguing that continuing the contentious GOP nomination race would only strengthen the position of President Barack Obama.
Rubio, a freshman senator and tea party favorite, said he's convinced that Romney will govern as a conservative and will be superior to Obama as a president.
"The quicker we can get this campaign on that focus — focused on the president's record, on the alternative that we offer — the better off we're going to be as a movement but also the better off the country's going to be," Rubio said during an interview with Fox News Channel.
Rubio had pledged to stay neutral in the race. But on Wednesday he said a floor fight over the nomination at the party convention in August would be "a recipe to deliver four more years to Barack Obama."
Rubio's endorsement followed that of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and came a day before former President George H.W. Bush was to back Romney — additional signs that more and more party leaders are falling in line behind Romney rather than Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul.
Gingrich has scaled back his campaign, saying he wants to focus on winning the nomination at the convention if Romney fails to win enough delegates during the primary race.
Rubio has been mentioned as a potential running mate on the GOP ticket. He told Fox News that his heart, mind and focus remain on the Senate and said he doubts he would be asked to join a Romney ticket.
A Fox News Latino poll of likely Latino voters conducted in February found one-third of respondents would be more likely to vote for a Republican nominee who selected a Latino running mate.
A quarter of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a Republican candidate who picked Rubio as his vice president.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.