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Bush endorsement leaves Romney focused on November

The Republican Party appears to be moving out of its primary fight to begin girding for a Romney-Obama matchup in the general election.

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Santorum is campaigning across the state as an ally of Walker.

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"I'm excited to stand here with Gov. Walker. Not only should he not be recalled, he should be re-elected," Santorum said in LaCrosse, Wis. "When Gov. Walker ran and your lieutenant governor ran, they didn't run as they would be moderates. They said the problems in Wisconsin were serious."

There was no let-up in Santorum's criticism of Romney, whom he said is "completely out of sync with America" and "uniquely disqualified" to lead the party against President Barack Obama.

But after absorbing defeats in a string of industrial states in the past month — Michigan, Ohio and Illinois — he said of Wisconsin: "I think we'll do well here. The question is how well."

Washington, D.C., and Maryland also hold primaries next week, but Santorum is not on the ballot in the first contest, and he has little if any campaign presence in the second. There are 95 delegates at stake in the three contests.

For the first time, Santorum on Monday seemed to acknowledge publicly that his quest for the presidential nomination may end in failure.

Asked in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network whether he would consider running as Romney's vice presidential ticketmate, he said: "Of course. I'll do whatever is necessary to help our country."

Gingrich took an even more obvious step toward the campaign exit, although he struck a defiant note one day after announcing that he would support Romney if the front-runner can win a majority of delegates by the time the primary season ends in June.

"For some reason everybody in the establishment is chanting that Santorum and I should quit. Romney has to earn this. It's not going to be given to him," he said. At the same time, his aides were explaining that he had pushed out his campaign manager, trimmed his staff by one-third and would cut back on personal campaign time in primary and caucus states in favor of contacting unpledged delegates.

Another sign that the Gingrich campaign had entered an end stage: Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, whose family has donated millions to a Gingrich-friendly super PAC, said that "it appears as though he's at the end of his line." The remark, reported Wednesday by JewishJournal.com, came Monday as Adelson informally discussed the race during a leadership retreat in Las Vegas.

The Associated Press tally showed Romney with 568 delegates and on a pace to reach the required 1,144 in the remaining primary and caucus states. Santorum has 273, and Gingrich 135.

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Romney has reaped several endorsements in the past week, since trouncing Santorum in the Illinois primary.

Bush has long been in his corner, but aides to Romney said Thursday's event was something different, a formal endorsement from the ex-president and his wife, Barbara.

Bush's son was generally viewed as the more conservative president of the two, but his popularity waned among Republicans as well as Democrats and independents when the economy cratered in 2008.

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