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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on Wednesday endorsed Mitt Romney to be the Republican nominee for president and called on Republicans to unite behind the front-runner.

"Primary elections have been held in 34 states and now is the time for Republican to unite behind Governor Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall," Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush, said in a statement released by his education foundation.

Bush's endorsement came after Romney scored an easy win in Illinois on Tuesday over his closest rival, Rick Santorum, moving him one step closer to clinching the party's volatile nomination battle for the right to face Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

"I am endorsing Mitt Romney for our party's nomination," Bush said. "We face huge challenges and we need a leader who understands the economy, recognizes more government regulation is not the answer, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism and works to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to succeed.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Deborah Charles; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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