Sure sounds like Jeb Bush is getting closer to running for president

The smart take on social media last night was that Romney’s new op-ed on national defense is a signal that he’s quietly thinking of running too. So maybe we’ll finally get that Mitt versus Jeb match-up that conservatives have been dreaming about lo these many years.

In fact, I tend to think the only rational explanation for the Jeb buzz is that it’s some sort of sly “Romney 2016” psy op. There’s just no way, no way, that the Republican Party’s going to take another bite at the Bush apple. The donor class may despise the base and would doubtless enjoy sticking it to righties by handing the nomination to the RINO-iest member of the Bush clan but the baggage that would come with it is too heavy. They want to win. The only rational explanation, then, is that Jeb’s clearing a path for Mitt by teasing conservatives with the prospect of a retread who’ll make Romney seem palatable by comparison.

Mitt 2016: “More severely conservative than Jeb Bush.”

The message from Mr. Bush’s inner circle during the past few months is in part an effort to bat down speculation that the former Florida governor has ruled out a 2016 run, say GOP donors and strategists who have spoken with the Bush camp. The message, as one put it, is: “Before you do anything, let us know.”

Jim Nicholson, a Bush supporter who served in President George W. Bush’s cabinet, said: “I think the chances are better than 50-50 that he runs, and that is based on some conversations I’ve had with members of the Bush family.”

In addition to keeping potential donors and supporters on deck, Mr. Bush is taking other steps that typically precede a presidential campaign: traveling the country, engaging in public policy debates and raising money for his party.

A newly established fundraising committee allows him to funnel donations from his financial backers to GOP candidates key to winning a majority in the U.S. Senate.

That fundraising committee is planning a gala event a few weeks from now for GOP Senate candidates with Jeb as the main speaker, naturally. The people in charge of it, notes the Journal, would obviously end up as the nucleus of a Jeb 2016 campaign finance committee if he jumps in.

Jen Rubin argues, correctly, that Bush could clear the centrist wing of the field more thoroughly than anyone else if he runs. Christie, Paul Ryan, and Rubio might all be willing to take their chances with each other, but if Jeb zooms in and vacuums up the biggest bankrolls in the donor class, as seems likely, there’ll be no point in running for the rest of them. Thanks to the Bush family’s connections, Jeb seems to have first dibs on establishment cash. What you’d likely end up with, fairly quickly, is a Bush versus Paul race with Ted Cruz possibly jumping in too as a tea-party wild card. I don’t think that field is sustainable, though; lots of middle-of-the-road conservatives would find Bush too squishy and suspect Paul and Cruz are unelectable. With one bowl of porridge too cold and another too hot, someone would step up to present a “just right” option. I thought that’d be Walker, but I don’t know if Walker will even win his gubernatorial race this fall. If he loses, will it be Jindal? He’s headed to New Hampshire this weekend, and not for the first time. Is he “just right”?