Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed Ted Cruz (R., Texas) for president Wednesday morning, saying that for the "sake of our party and country," Republicans need to overcome Donald Trump's "divisiveness and vulgarity" and unite behind the freshman senator.
Trump holds a wide lead over Cruz in the delegate count, but Cruz is the only other GOP candidate remaining to have won multiple states.
In a statement, Mr. Bush called Mr. Cruz a "consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests."
He added, "For the sake of our party and country, we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies."
Republicans have been slow to get behind Mr. Cruz, even as the field has winnowed, but some former critics, such as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have recently turned to him as a last resort.
After dropping out of the race, Mr. Bush met with his former opponents, except for Mr. Trump, but until now declined to back anyone.
Bush's decision to endorse Cruz also appears to be a repudiation of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose only primary victory has been his home state. It is mathematically impossible for Kasich to capture the requisite number of delegates for the nomination before the Republican convention, but he nevertheless has continued to campaign.
Bush, the brother and son of former presidents, entered the 2016 field last year as a top contender for the GOP nomination, but he didn't come close to winning any primaries, dropping out after a fourth-place finish in South Carolina.
Bush saw his fortunes decline after Trump entered the field in June, becoming the frequent target of the billionaire's attacks. As Trump's numbers rose in the polls, Bush's fell and never recovered, despite his formidable campaign war chest.