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No apparent solution in meeting between Romney, Bush

Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush in October 2012.
Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush in October 2012.Charles Dharapak/AP/File

WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney did not emerge from a Salt Lake City meeting on Thursday with a proposal about how to reconcile their competing plans to run for the White House next year, advisers to both men indicated after the talk.

“Gov. Bush enjoyed visiting with Gov. Romney today in Salt Lake,” Kristy Campbell, Bush’s spokeswoman, said in a noncommittal answer to reporters’ questions.

The meeting was cordial and touched on both policy and the Republicans’ need to field a strong contender for the presidency in 2016, according to an adviser to one of the candidates who was not authorized to discuss a meeting that the two would-be candidates had intended to keep secret.

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Former Gov. Mike Leavitt of Utah, a close friend of Romney’s, said he felt “very confident it was a gentlemanly conversation.”

“Every interaction I’ve observed between them has been positive and friendly,” he added.

The meeting was organized by Bush and scheduled well before Romney began musing about mounting a third presidential campaign, first mentioned this month in a meeting with donors in New York.

Neither man sought to cancel the gathering because each was curious about the other’s thinking on the 2016 race, the adviser said.

Leavitt said “it seemed like a good thing to get together to keep the lines of communication open.”

Both men have been sounding out Republican donors about the 2016 race, sometimes calling the same people on the same day. What they have been hearing back, in many cases, is that donors hope to avoid any competition between the two men — both centrist Republicans — that could split the party’s establishment.

Since both Bush and Romney declared their interest in a campaign, some of the party’s fundraising bundlers have stopped making firm commitments.

On Wednesday, representatives for both Bush, a former Florida governor, and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, refused to confirm the meeting.

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But when Bush was approached by a pair of reporters and a host of well-wishers as he waited for a flight from Washington to Salt Lake City, Campbell said it was simply a chance for the two “to catch up.”

In Washington, where he was greeted by a group of reporters, Bush said he would not comment on the talk.

He later tweeted a picture of himself at Ronald Reagan National Airport with a group of Delta employees.

“Thank you to the @Delta team for always being great sports — sorry about all of our reporter friends milling around,” he wrote.