Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney have spurred other presidential contenders into action

Robert CostaMatea Gold and Philip Rucker --- The Washington Post 

A broad field of GOP candidates are ramping up preparations for presidential runs in the wake of early maneuvering by establishment favorites Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, kicking off the race for the 2016 Republican nomination at a breakneck speed.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who is making a swing through New Hampshire on Wednesday, has tapped a campaign manager for his expected bid, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is quietly mobilizing the group of wealthy donors who would finance his effort.

Other possible contenders — such as former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Arkansas governorMike Huckabee and former New York governor George Pataki — are holding meetings with party activists and donors, emphasizing their interest in running.

“Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney both threw a very interesting wrench in the mix,” said GOP strategist Saul Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. “I don’t think anybody expected them to come out so early or to come out so forcefully. If everybody stays in, it’s truly a wide-open ballgame.”

Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sought to use separate State of the State addresses Tuesday to lay out rationales for their anticipated GOP bids, underscoring how 2016 considerations are now driving state and national politics on the right.

While there is not a single declared candidate, the rush of behind-the-scenes activity spotlights the crowded and costly nature of the coming intraparty fight. With as many as two dozen contenders, the race is shaping up to be one of the largest and most competitive in modern presidential politics.

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