2012 Watch: Jeb Bush Says He's Out, Rick Santorum Pitches Run

Jeb Bush
Getty Images/Dennis Brack

The jockeying over which Republican will take on President Obama in 2012 is in full swing, with some likely candidates (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty) taking all the traditional steps to set up a run while other potential challengers test the waters.

One Republican who has generated considerable speculation inside Washington is former Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of President George W. Bush and son of President George H.W. Bush. Bush has become more politically active in recent months, appearing at fundraisers and making endorsements, and is well positioned to win the key early primary state of Florida should he enter the race.

Now comes word that Bush is ruling himself out. "I am not running for president," he told Louisville ABC affiliate WHAS, according to Politico.

Bush previously elected to forgo a Florida Senate run. It's worth noting that many presidential candidates - among them Barack Obama - flatly insisted they would not seek the presidency before jumping into the race.

Rick Santorum
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Meanwhile, Rick Santorum, the socially conservative former Pennsylvania senator crushed in his reelection bid four years ago, is making his plans to enter the race more and more obvious. (CBSNews.com profiled Santorum in April, and he acknowledged that he was considering a run.)

As CNN reports, Santorum "met privately last week with several of his former Capitol Hill staffers to pitch the idea of a presidential bid in 2012."

Unlike Bush, Santorum has good reason to play up a possible run: Despite maintaining his profile among conservatives (a Friday guest-hosting gig on Bill Bennett's radio show helped), he needs to make waves to get the attention of the political establishment. He has been traveling to key early primary states and is poised to make a play for the social conservative niche that helped propel Mike Huckabee to a win in the Iowa caucuses in the 2008 cycle.

Also potentially inching closer to a run is South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the one possible candidate that DNC executive director Jennifer O'Malley Dillon recently said gives her nightmares.

In an effort to burnish his policy credentials, as Politico reports, Thune is putting forward a budget plan that mandates creation of a panel to cut government spending, establish a line-item veto and mandate that the deficit be reduced at a rate of ten percent per year until it is gone.

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