Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will host a fundraiser for Iowa's Republican Gov. Terry Branstad later this month in Coral Gables, Fla., a move that could be interpreted as dipping a toe in to test the 2016 waters.
The event, which takes place on May 22, was reported by the Des Moines Register. Bush seems far less certain to run in 2016 compared to some of his GOP contemporaries, but he has said that he is "digesting" the idea of a national campaign and will decide later this year.
Currying favor in Iowa, whose caucuses represent the first hurdle to earning the nomination, is a key step for most presidential contenders. Many Republicans eyeing the 2016 race, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, have made multiple trips to the state already.
Bush won't travel to Iowa, but raising money for the governor is a good way to get his foot in the door. Later this month, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who's also the head of the Republican Governors Association, will host Branstad for a fundraising lunch in the Garden State before returning to Iowa in July for a few pro-Branstad activities, the Register reports. Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, also plans to be a guest of Branstad at two Iowa fundraisers in late May.
"We are thankful a national leader like Gov. Jeb Bush is hosting this fundraiser for our campaign," Branstad campaign manager Jake Ketzner told the Register. "Given Gov. Bush's popularity and unmatched record as governor of Florida, we believe this will be a very successful fundraiser, and the governor is excited to attend."
In the paper's last presidential poll, taken in December, Bush tied for the fifth most popular potential GOP candidate among the state's Republicans along with Paul and Christie. The four Republicans with the highest favorable ratings are Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. (73 percent), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (66 percent), former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum (58 percent) and Perry (55 percent). Bush, Christie and Paul all had a 51 percent favorable rating.c