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Mitt Romney and George H.W. Bush enjoy "a visit between friends"

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney meets with former President George H.W. Bush, and his dog Mimi, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011, at Bush's home in Houston. AP Photo/Pat Sullivan

During a fundraising sweep through Texas on Thursday, Gov. Mitt Romney visited with a Republican whose footsteps he would like to follow: former President George H.W. Bush.

Romney stopped by the 41st president's home in Houston, where he spent about 30 minutes with Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush. Jim Appleby, an aide to the former president, described the meeting as "a visit between friends." He said Bush and Romney "go way back."

The two men also met this earlier this year at Bush's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine. The Romney family vacations about 90 minutes away in Wolfeboro, N.H., where locals both joke and lament about the possibility of their small haven gaining the same national attention as Kennebunkport should Romney make it to the White House.

So far, the former president has not made an endorsement in the GOP presidential contest, but Romney would appear to have an inside track. Appleby noted that Bush "obviously knows Governor Perry very well." That does not, however, necessarily mean Bush likes Romney rival Gov. Rick Perry, who succeeded Bush's son, George W. Bush, as Texas governor when the younger Bush became the nation's 43rd president. Last year, the elder Bush backed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, in her unsuccessful bid to defeat Perry in Texas' gubernatorial primary.

Bush also knows Gingrich well, though the memories are unlikely to be warm. In 1990, Gingrich infuriated the then-president and GOP elders in Congress by coming out against a budget deal that the White House had negotiated with congressional Democrats because it contained a tax increase. The resulting snafu and public relations disaster came back to haunt Bush in his unsuccessful 1992 reelection campaign.

Appleby said that Bush also knows former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and may have met Herman Cain, but not Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Though Bush officially remains neutral in the Republican presidential race, many of his connections are on board with Romney:

  • Two of Bush's children - Doro and Marvin - have already donated to the Romney's campaign.
  •  According to Federal Election Commission data, Romney holds a wide lead over other GOP presidential candidates in donations received from the 939 "Pioneers" and "Rangers" who raised at least $100,000 each for George Bush's presidential efforts.
  • Romney received the endorsement today of the elder Bush's first cousin, former U.S. Ambassador George H. Walker III. Walker was among 29 local leaders in Missouri to announce their support of Romney this morning.

Appleby says he's not sure if the former president will endorse any of the GOP candidates vying for his old job, or be out on the campaign trail. "Probably at 87, he's happy staying close to home," Appleby said - noting that Bush does, however, enjoy venturing out for Texas A&M University and Houston Texans football games.