Politico

By Burgess Everett
12/16/14 5:11 PM EST

Republicans in Congress have plenty of nice things to say about Jeb Bush. But influential lawmakers aren’t about to jump on the Bush presidential bandwagon just yet — or bow out of possibly running against him.

GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas all suggested that Bush’s announcement Tuesday that he will “actively” explore a presidential run would not affect their calculations as they eye 2016. Cruz went so far as to pan any relatively moderate Republican nominee that smacks of Mitt Romney, John McCain or Bob Dole.

Paul said he remains on track to decide on a White House run in the early spring, and a spokesman for Rubio said Bush could be a “formidable candidate” but that the Florida senator’s presidential aspirations won’t be swayed by “who else might be running.”

It’s also clear that Bush has major work to do to win over Republican senators hailing from early primary and caucus states. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said it had been at least four years since he’d talked to Bush and that the former Florida governor had made no moves to win him over. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said he’d met with Bush several times in the recent years but not in a one-on-one situation.

“It will be very interesting to see how he is received immediately. And that will be, I think, a strong indication of where he goes from here,” said Scott, who’s planning to set up a South Carolina forum for GOP candidates during primary season.

New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte had a pretty succinct message for the presidential hopeful: Get to the Granite State, ASAP.

“He really hasn’t been to New Hampshire yet. I don’t care who you are, you’ve got to do the hard work in New Hampshire,” Ayotte said. “With the Bush name, he’ll have name recognition. But again I think everyone will get an open vetting in New Hampshire and it’ll make a difference how hard the candidates work in terms of meeting the activists.”

In an interview as he walked briskly to his Senate office after a round of votes, Paul stuck to his “more the merrier” message for the Republican Party’s messy primary season that looms. But he shrugged off the suggestion that he will need to base his decisions around how the rest of the field is shaping up, whether it’s Bush jumping in or anyone else.

“I haven’t really made the final decision to run yet. I’ve got to make that decision first,” Paul said. “If I were to run, I would run because I think I have something unique to offer. Other people wouldn’t make much difference.”

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