Former President George H.W. Bush has offered his support to Mitt Romney in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination, according to a Romney aide.
Romney spoke with Bush, the 41st president, on the phone Thursday afternoon to thank him for his backing, the aide said.
"I think Romney is the best choice for us," Bush told the Houston Chronicle. But Bush, father of the 43rd president, George W. Bush, stopped short of officially endorsing Romney in the contest.
Bush, who told the Chronicle he has known Romney for many years and knew Romney's father, said he supported the younger Romney because of his "stability, experience, principles."
"He's a fine person," Bush said. "I just think he's mature and reasonable, not a bomb-thrower."
Bush also commented on the candidacy of his fellow Texan, Gov. Rick Perry, saying, "I like Perry, but he doesn't seem to be going anywhere; he's not surging forward."
The elder Bush had fewer pleasant things to say about another Republican candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "I'm not his biggest advocate," Bush said.
Romney, meanwhile, rejected Gingrich's call to face him before cameras and defend negative ads against him, which are largely financed by a heavily bankrolled group friendly to Romney.
"We've had many occasions to debate together, and we'll have more, I presume quite a few more, before this is finished," Romney told the Associated Press. "But I'm not going to narrow this down to a two-person race while there are still a number of other candidates that are viable."
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, stretched thin as she tries to visit all 99 counties in Iowa, planned 10 visits Thursday before taking a brief break for Christmas. With her voice failing, she relied on supporters to make the case for her as she walked around diners and restaurants, whispering greetings to her fans in rural Iowa.
She was shouted down at the popular Hamburg Inn in Iowa City, with protesters blasting her conservative position on gay rights, health care and taxes.
"You're not wanted here. So go, just go," they chanted.
Perry stopped at two meet-and-greets with Iowa caucusgoers, many of whom remain undecided.
Another candidate, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, in an interview with CNN's Gloria Borger, unplugged his microphone after getting agitated when she pressed him to discuss some racist newsletters sent out in his name during the 1990s.
"I never read that stuff," he said. "I was probably aware of it 10 years after it was written."