That seems to be the trend among the latest round of Establishment Republicans to back Romney. “I do think it’s time for the party to get behind Gov. Romney,” George H.W. Bush said. His son Jeb used the same words: “It is time to get behind the nominee.” In multiple interviews, Marco Rubio has riffed along the same lines, with a conspicuous absence of effusive praise: “I think it’s evidently and increasingly clear that Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican nominee.”
You might read these statements as examples of lukewarm sentiment for the candidate–Dave Weigel compares them to Ted Kennedy’s swooning endorsement of Obama at the height of the epic 2008 Democratic primary–but I’m not sure that’s entirely fair.
There is a real and legitimate concern among Republicans that in recent years, their party has at times lost focus on winning general elections (see Christine O’Donnell). The Establishment endorsers’ target audience–Republicans who want to see the primary play out a bit longer–is not one that needs to be swept off its feet. It’s not even one that needs to be convinced Romney should win the nomination. The goal is to show that Romney has already won it, and that it’s time to move on to taking down Obama. The press would probably ascribe those motivations to these endorsements either way, but I see no reason Establishment Republicans shouldn’t be coming out and saying it to begin with.