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Jeb Bush Stealing Christie's Thunder for 2016 With Big Donors

Image: Jeb Bush Stealing Christie's Thunder for 2016 With Big Donors

By Melissa Clyne   |   Friday, 02 May 2014 07:44 AM

Deep-pocketed GOP donors are in a quandary about whose coffers to fill in the 2016 presidential race, The New York Times reports.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was comfortably atop the GOP field, garnering support from various factions of the party. Then the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal broke, raising questions about his ability to win the nation's top office.

Despite Bridge-gate, the Times said donors felt they had no viable alternative,  so they had to gamble that Christie would be able to rehab his image.

Urgent: Who Is Your Choice for the GOP's 2016 Nominee?

Enter Jeb Bush, popular former Republican governor of Florida, a large swing state, who's also brother and son of presidents.

Bush has been evasive about his intentions for 2016, but momentum began building in recent weeks as he started to appear more serious about considering a run.

This puts donors in an awkward spot. Many of them credit the Bush family — a golden name in GOP circles — with giving them their entree into politics

"They love the Bush family," said Barry Wynn, former chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina as well as a George W. Bush fundraiser. "They love the whole package, and they feel Jeb is just a part of the package."

Wynn added that there are no questions about Bush's integrity.

Even former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a fellow Republican who endorsed Christie for governor, has concerns about his ability to rebound from the bridge scandal and win over skeptics who question his conservative credentials.

"I don't know that Chris will be there at the end of the day," she told the Times.

In late March, The Washington Post reported that "powerful insiders and financiers" were courting Bush to run.

"He's the most desired candidate out there," GOP fundraiser Brian Ballard told the newspaper. "Everybody that I know is excited about it."

Florida real estate developer Mel Sembler told the Times that while he has "great affection" for Christie and his popularity as a Republican governor in a Democratic state, "I have great loyalty to (the Bush family) because they brought me into the political arena, and I'll be supporting Jeb Bush if he decides to run."

Being forced to take sides in a Bush-Christie matchup is an unenviable task for Republican donors, according to the Times, and one that will have to wait until both men's intentions for 2016 are more transparent.

"Nobody is going to count anybody out or do anything to annoy a friend who is the governor of your state," said Lawrence E. Bathgate II, a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee and a major donor in New Jersey. Bathgate characterized the choice as a "fraught decision."

"I could easily wind up in the Jeb column." he added.

Urgent: Who Is Your Choice for the GOP's 2016 Nominee?

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