Jeb Bush: I'm not 'auditioning' for the Koch brothers

Jeb Bush at the Republican Leadership Summit, April 17, 2015, in Nashua, N.H. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)
Jeb Bush at the Republican Leadership Summit, April 17, 2015, in Nashua, N.H.

New York, N.Y. – Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush acknowledged on Thursday that the conservative, billionaire Koch brothers will likely play a big role in the 2016 presidential race, but the GOPer also said he didn’t see himself as “auditioning” for their backing.

“If I go beyond the consideration to be an active candidate, my hope is to garner as much support across the whole spectrum of the Republican party,” Bush told msnbc after a meet-and-greet with the Manhattan Republican Party on the Upper East Side. He called the Koch brothers’ network an “important part of any coalition to win the primary, so I don’t view it as auditioning for sure. But my intention is, if I’m a candidate, I will reach out to every sector of the party.”

Bush’s comments come following David Koch’s glowing remarks earlier this week at a New York fundraiser about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – who is also eyeing a bid for the Oval Office.

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Koch, who reportedly said Walker would be the GOP nominee, fueled speculation that the brothers may throw their support behind Walker. A Koch aide insisted to Politico, however, that the siblings are not yet committed to a candidate and that Bush, in the political site’s words, will be given a “chance to audition” for the brothers’ support.

The Koch brothers’ group, Americans for Prosperity, could spend upwards of $125 million for the 2016 race.

Besides the meet-and-greet with Manhattan Republicans, Bush is in the Big Apple to hold a fundraiser and meetings. He also made a stop at The Ramaz School, a Jewish day school, to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day. 

Bush was also asked his thoughts about Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his plans to address income inequality. The former governor told reporters that he believes America’s challenge isn’t income inequality but rather a lack of social and economic mobility. Bush added on De Blasio that he’s “not a big fan of the progressive agenda, not a big fan of higher and higher taxes. I haven’t followed his day-to-day activity though.”

On when he’ll officially make a decision on running for president in 2016, Bush said “Not today” “but some point soon I’ll make up my mind.”

So far, on the GOP side, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky have officially said they are running for the Republican nomination. On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she too will seek the presidency in 2016.