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Republicans getting behind Romney

The Republican establishment is increasingly lining up behind Mitt Romney in the race to choose a candidate to challenge President Barack Obama, finally giving clarity to a long and grinding nominating contest that has exposed deep divisions within the party.

Mr Romney notched a convincing victory in the heartland state of Illinois, quickly followed by a surprise endorsement from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of former President George W Bush.

There were also signs that major Republican campaign contributors are shifting more money in his direction.

Jeb Bush, an establishment figure within the party, had remained on the sidelines for much of the state-by-state primary contest.

His backing helped give Mr Romney the aura of inevitability that has eluded him for months, despite a formidable financial and organisational advantage over his rivals.

"Now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall (autumn)," Mr Bush said in a statement.

He congratulated the other candidates "for a hard-fought, thoughtful debate and primary season".

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