Published: May 05, 2010 11:41 AM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is

endorsing Marco Rubio's campaign for U.S. Senate.

Bush, still popular and influential with Florida Republicans,

has long been rumored to be a Rubio backer, but his endorsement

comes less than a week after Gov. Charlie crist decided to run as

an independent rather than face Rubio in the GOP primary.

Bush says Rubio is a passionate, principled leader who wouldn't

change his views when political winds shift.

Rubio says Bush has been an inspiration to him, saying, "Gov.

Bush's service to Florida is immeasurable, as is his impact on my

own life and career."

Bush and the former House speaker will appear together Friday

and a Pasco County Republican dinner.