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New York Jets owner Woody Johnson leaning toward Jeb Bush

Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, is leaning toward Jeb Bush as his favorite 2016 candidate.  (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is poised to pick up another mega-fundraiser: New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, who helped bring in millions for the campaigns of former GOP White House contenders John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Johnson, a great-grandson of industrialist Robert Wood Johnson, has sent signals to fellow Republicans in recent weeks that he is strongly leaning toward backing Bush’s expected presidential bid, as the New York Times first reported Thursday.

On Wednesday, he stirred attention among fellow GOP donors by showing up in Chicago at two Bush events: a roundtable policy discussion and an evening fundraiser at the Lake Forest, Ill. home of Melissa and Reeve Waud, which required a minimum contribution of $25,000 per person to attend.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see him,” said private equity executive Bill Kunkler, who helped organize some of the Chicago events. “It would be significant -- he was a key player for Mitt. I kind of just assumed he’s on the bus now. But I can’t speak for whether he’s still doing his due diligence.”

A spokesman for Johnson declined to comment.

The backing of the New York Jets owner would be a major boon for Bush and another loss for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). In recent years, Johnson has offered strong praise for Christie and his leadership of New Jersey, where the Jets play.

Bush raised roughly $4.2 million at the two events in Wednesday, according to two people who helped organize them.