* Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the Club for Growth endorsement.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz picked up two key endorsements Wednesday: one from ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and another from powerful conservative group Club for Growth.
"Today, I am endorsing Ted Cruz for President," Bush said in a news release. "Ted is a consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests. Washington is broken, and the only way Republicans can hope to win back the White House and put our nation on a better path is to support a nominee who can articulate how conservative policies will help people rise up and reach their full potential."
Bush dropped out of the GOP race for president in February after a lackluster campaign. As a candidate, he dominated fundraising across the country and in Texas. His endorsement serves as the strongest signal yet that Republicans feel inclined to line up behind Cruz as real estate magnate Donald Trump continues to collect delegates as the party frontrunner.
Like other Cruz endorsements of late, the move was as much about opposing Trump as it was about supporting the Texas senator.
“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," he added. "To win, Republicans need to make this election about proposing solutions to the many challenges we face, and I believe that we should vote for Ted as he will do just that.”
The effort to coalesce behind Cruz is a slow one, with notable Texans and national Republicans taking their time to back him. Cruz is deeply unpopular in many GOP circles, particularly on Capitol Hill.
The Club for Growth, a group committed to reducing government spending and taxes, announced its support of Cruz on Wednesday morning.
“Ted Cruz is the best free-market, pro-growth, limited-government candidate in the presidential race,” said Club for Growth President David McIntosh. “The Club’s PAC has never endorsed in a presidential race, but this year is different because there is a vast gulf between the two leading Republican candidates on matters of economic liberty."
The club was a key Cruz ally during his underdog 2012 Senate race against then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Dewhurst had almost unlimited personal wealth to fund his own Senate campaign.
The club countered that spending with a strong television advertising presence in support of Cruz. The organization is also one of the most effective groups in politics when it comes to directing individual donors to a campaign.
But the early 2016 GOP nomination field provided the club with a glut of talent to choose from. The group previously endorsed candidates like U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida. Additionally, the club crowed about former Gov. Rick Perry's policies during his initial 2012 presidential run.