The Bush pilgrimage: 2016 GOP hopefuls visiting Dubya in Dallas

The potential candidates come to Dallas not just to seek Bush’s advice; there is of course a more blatant element of self-interest. The candidates are making their own campaign pitches in the hopes of one day securing an endorsement. “There may come a day when that would happen and we wanted to have a marker in that discussion,” Pawlenty says.

Then there is the matter of money. Together, the Bush family has won four gubernatorial races and three presidential elections. It boasts a donor network that extends to every city, town, and hamlet in the country. “Most of . . . the Republican or conservative funding network is the Bush network,” says Pawlenty. “People want to try to gain support from that network, and having him be aware of that and neutral or positive to you is helpful.”

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who calls himself a “great admirer” of Bush, says that he and his wife, Tonette, visited the former first couple in Dallas when they traveled to Super Bowl XLV in February 2011 to watch the Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Walker says that, for now, he speaks with Jeb Bush more than he does with the former president, and that in Dallas they spoke less about policy and “more about personal stuff.”