House Speaker John Boehner says he's "nudged" former Florida governor Jeb Bush to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016. Picture: John Davenport, San Antonio Express-News

San Antonio -

The top Republican in Congress has delivered the strongest hints about his preference for the White House.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on Monday that he's “nudged” former Florida governor Jeb Bush to seek the party's nomination for president in 2016.

Bush is the former Florida governor, brother to former president George W. Bush and son of president George H.W. Bush. If he decides to run, a possible showdown looms with another familiar name - Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady and secretary of state and now a favoured hopeful of Democrats.

Various potential Republican candidates are still jockeying for position with a long two years remaining before 2016, and Boehner cautioned that the talk was a bit premature, but didn't shy from praising Bush.

“Jeb Bush is my friend. I think he'd make a great president. I've nudged him for some time,” Boehner told the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Republican Sens Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas have been mentioned as possible presidential candidates along with a number of Republican governors. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, an early favourite, faces multiple investigations in a political retribution probe.

Bush, who speaks Spanish and is married to a Mexican-born wife, has prompted questions about his viability as a potential presidential contender by speaking with compassion for immigrants in the US illegally. He sparked a conservative furore earlier this month when he described illegal immigration in an interview as an “act of love” by people trying to provide for their families. He said immigrants who enter the country illegally should pay a penalty, but he added that he viewed such a violation as “a different kind of crime”.

His views on immigration would likely put him at odds with conservative activists who influence the primary process that will decide the Republican presidential nominee.

However, Hispanics have become a crucial voting bloc from Florida to Colorado to Nevada and other battleground states that decide the state-by-state race for the White House. Bush enjoys the support of some of the Republican Party's most powerful insiders and financiers, who are hoping the party can woo Hispanic voters and rebound from candidate Mitt Romney's damaging rhetoric in 2012, when he spoke of “self-deportation” as a solution to America's immigration issue.

As a scion of one of America's most famous political dynasties, Bush could both benefit from and struggle under its weight. His grandfather was a senator from Connecticut, while his father, George H.W. Bush, was elected to one term in 1988; his brother, George W. Bush, served two presidential terms beginning in 2001. The family's vast fundraising network and political connections, in addition to Jeb Bush's own donors and advisers, could be formidable. And Jeb Bush remains a favourite on Wall Street, as senior adviser at the financial firm Barclays.

But his older brother's presidency, fraught with two long wars and the US economy's near collapse, still looms. Even former first lady Barbara Bush has spoken of Bush fatigue, saying: “If we can't find more than two or three families to run for high office, that's silly.”

Bush briefly considered a presidential campaign in 2012 but declined to run. He has said he'll decide by the end of the year whether to run. He has travelled to some battleground states and in March flew to Las Vegas in to meet party super donor Sheldon Adelson and address senior members of the Republican Jewish Coalition at Adelson's company airport hangar.

In this year's midterm congressional elections, Republicans are expected to keep control of the House and have a legitimate shot at seizing the majority in the Senate. Boehner said he expects to keep his leadership position in 2015 but stopped short of committing to serving out a full 13th term in Congress. - Sapa-AP