Romney racks up more endorsements as Santorum exits

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at the Newspapers Association of America/ American Society of News Editors luncheon gathering in Washington, Wednesday, April 4, 2012. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

It was another super Tuesday for Mitt Romney, as many notable Republicans got behind him and Rick Santorum exited the presidential primary race.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who had previously backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for president, released a statement shortly after Santorum dropped out saying he supported Romney in his efforts to "retire" President Obama, and encouraged his party to look forward toward the general election.

"It's time for all Republicans to focus their energies on the fall campaign which will give Americans a fundamental choice between Obama's lurch toward European style big government and the Republican alternative of a thriving private sector with a smaller government," wrote Jindal.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey also threw his support behind Romney, saying in a statement that "Gov. Romney is exactly the kind of leader our country needs to solve our fiscal crisis and restore American prosperity." The upcoming primary vote in Pennsylvania was expected to be hotly contested between Romney and Santorum, who had served as senator in the Keystone State.

(At left, CBS News political director John Dickerson and CBS News national correspondent Chip Reid discuss what's next in the GOP race)

Toomey's office said he made the decision to back Romney today, though it is unclear if he made up his mind before or after Santorum's announcement. He is scheduled to speak at the same dinner as Romney in Mendelhall, Pa., tonight.

Just moments before Santorum departed the race, another Republican who knew him well, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, held a press conference endorsing Romney. Branstad did not endorse any candidates before the Republican caucuses in his state, though he was heavily courted. Santorum specifically spent months on end campaigning only in Iowa, and his victory there was a major catalyst for springing him from the bottom of the GOP field to the top tier.

Asked if he would consider himself on Romney's list for vice president, Branstad said "I'm not seeking anything except a new leader for America."

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Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another highly sought after endorsement in the GOP primary battle, also released a statement congratulating Santorum on an "amazing" campaign. He added "Now is the time to get behind Mitt Romney as our presidential nominee so that every corner of the Republican Party is united."

According to Graham spokesman Scott Farmer, though, this was not an official endorsement, but a continuation of what Graham has said about Romney in the past, saying he's "singing off the page he's been singing off of for several weeks now. Romney's going to be the nominee."

Florida Gov Rick Scott also released this statement: "There is no question that Rick Santorum ran a hard fought campaign. I commend his passion and his willingness to put the best interest of our party and nation first. Mitt Romney will be our party's nominee and it is critical that all Republicans coalesce behind Governor Romney and focus on electing him as President so he can put the policies in place to create jobs, turn our economy around and get federal spending under control."

Two other notable Republican names who have yet to officially endorse anyone in the Republican primary are Jim DeMint and Haley Barbour. DeMint has urged Republicans to back Romney in the past, but his office said today that he had no further plans for a statement or endorsement based on today's news. Similarly, Barbour's office said that he still had no plans to formally back a primary candidate.

Full CBS News coverage: Rick Santorum

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    Sarah B. Boxer covers politics for CBS News.

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