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Bushes' Seal of Approval at Stake for 2012 GOP Candidates

Photos[dot]com/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- None of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates has earned the blessing of the Bush dynasty, with nine months until the Iowa caucuses. But several early contenders have been striving for approval from the family that has produced the two most recent Republican presidents and wields continued influence among conservative voters and donors.

Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China-turned potential presidential hopeful, makes a pilgrimage to the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, on Monday to meet with former President George H.W. Bush, his former boss.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who made his presidential campaign official Monday, met with Mr. Bush in Texas a few weeks ago.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels had seemed to capture the most attention of the Bush clan, receiving encouragement from former First Lady Laura Bush and other former Bush administration advisers to make the run for office. On Sunday, he declined.

Now, many Bush family loyalists are looking for an alternative to Daniels, and some say former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, should be their guy.

Bush is seen as a conservative heavyweight with executive experience and strong appeal in a key swing state for 2012. He also has name recognition and credibility among Republicans nationwide.

"Jeb probably has a better chance to unite the establishment and Tea Party wings of the GOP than anyone else, certainly a better chance than Sarah Palin or Mitt Romney," National Review editor Rich Lowry wrote earlier this year.

In a poll of likely Florida voters last month, Bush held a nearly 20 point lead over President Obama in a hypothetical 2012 presidential matchup.

Still, Bush has repeatedly insisted he will not run in 2012 and believes the party has plenty of candidates who could defeat Obama.

"While I am flattered by everyone's encouragement, my decision has not changed," Bush, 58, said in a statement Sunday. "I will not be a candidate for president in 2012."

A Gallup poll last month found 44 percent of Americans have an unfavorable impression of Jeb Bush, with only 35 percent holding a favorable view. In February, a national Fox News poll on possible Republican match-ups with Obama, Bush trailed the president by 20 points.

But Bush himself has suggested that no decision is final. "You never say never about anything," he told CNN when asked late last year about a presidential run.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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