Would-Be 2016 Rivals React to Mitt Romney's Decision

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Mitt Romney's would-be Republican opponents in 2016 were quick to praise the former GOP presidential nominee following his announcement he has decided not to make a third run for the White House.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who would have competed with Romney in appealing to the establishment wing of the GOP if both ran, called him "a patriot."

"I hope to work together with Mitt to grow our party and lead our country forward," Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul tweeted. It was a noticable shift from other recent social media postings about the former Massachusetts governor.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whom Romney considered as a potential vice presidential nominee in 2012, said in a statement, "There hasn't been a day when I didn't think that Mitt Romney would have been a better president than Barack Obama."

"He certainly earned the right to consider running, so I deeply respect his decision to give the next generation a chance to lead," Rubio added.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who recently started a committee to gauge support for his own presidential run, told CNN he "was a little bit surprised" by Romney's decision.

"It's just one less good person to choose from. The way I look at it," Graham said. "Mitt Romney has a lot to offer the country and the Republican Party. There are other people out there, too, and I want to try to be one of those."

Former 2012 presidential rival Rick Santorum said he hopes Romney "will continue to provide leadership on alleviating poverty and helping working families rise."

Other potential rivals reacted on twitter:

-- Mark Murray contributed to this report.