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Romney's Not-So-Subtle Parting Shot at Jeb Bush

Mitt Romney says he wants someone "who is just getting started." Who does he mean?

Announcing his decision not to run for president Friday, Mitt Romney described his ideal GOP standard-bearer like this:

I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee. In fact, I expect and hope that to be the case.

"Next generation" and "not as well known" certainly stand out in that sentence, as Romney was speaking to a group of former backers ripe for poaching by the camp of GOP establishment favorite Jeb Bush.

For one, it’s certainly debatable that Bush – the son of one president and the brother of another – represents a “next generation of Republican leaders.” He’s been out of elected office for eight years; he’s part of the party’s most well-known modern political dynasty, and he was talked about as a potential presidential candidate long before this year. And at 61, he’s more than a decade older than some of the conservative movement’s breakout stars, like Marco Rubio (43), Ted Cruz (44) and Scott Walker (47).

On the “not as well known” count – we mined recent NBC/WSJ poll numbers and found that Jeb Bush is closer to Mitt Romney’s name ID than he is to some of the possible Republican contenders who are “just getting started,” to use Romney’s words.

Romney’s name recognition is at an unsurprising 96 percent (after all, he ran for president twice and was the nominee in a hard fought general election once.)

But Jeb Bush’s name ID – in part, no doubt, because of his famous last name – stands at a not-shabby 87 percent.

Here’s the percentage of poll respondents who said they recognized the names of other GOP luminaries in our December NBC/WSJ poll.

  • Chris Christie – 84 percent
  • Mike Huckabee – 82 percent
  • Rand Paul - 82 percent
  • Rick Perry – 76 percent
  • Marco Rubio – 67 percent
  • Ted Cruz – 65 percent
  • Scott Walker – 51 percent