ABC News' Bret Hovell Reports: The forty-first president of the United States endorsed the Republican candidacy of Sen. John McCain Monday morning -- the second high-profile member of the Bush family to offer his explicit support to the Arizona Republican.
"I believe now is the right time for me to help John in his effort to start building the broad base coalition it will take for our conservative values to carry the White House this fall," former President George H. W. Bush said at a press conference in Houston.
Bush’s son Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida and brother of President George W. Bush, has also endorsed McCain.
The current president has expressed an implicit support for McCain’s candidacy, but has yet to embrace McCain as the party’s nominee because the Republican race has not been officially settled, with former Gov. Mike Huckabee refusing to back out until a candidate gets to the 1,191 delegates needed to win the Republican nomination.
The elder Bush acknowledge that fact in his remarks Monday, seeming to signal to Huckabee, that his time in the race should begin to draw to a close.
"Let me stress that I’ve not come here to tell any other candidate what to do," Bush started before talking about his own failed bid for the 1980 Republican nomination.
"Admitting to my own defeat in 1980, even after it was apparent to the rest of our team, was very tough for me was a hard thing to do when you’ve been working hard yourself," Bush said. "After so much time and exhaustive effort by so many friends, it can take a while for any candidate to read the handwriting on the wall and that certainly was true for me."
McCain promised Bush and his wife Barbara that they would not regret the endorsement.
"I can assure you that Cindy and I will do everything we can to make sure that you are proud and that your support of our candidacy will be something that you can look back on as having been the right thing to do," McCain said.
Bush also served up his analysis on the question of whether or not McCain is conservative enough to be the Republican standard bearer.
"I hear these criticisms and, Barbara knows, I get a little bit annoyed about them, frankly," the former president said.
"I just don’t like when I see a friend come under unfair attack, and that’s what this is," Bush said. "It’s not that big, it’s not that broad in my view. So he’ll do just fine with the base of the Republican Party."