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The invisible 2016 GOP presidential primary season continued to rocket ahead this week on a faster schedule than anyone imagined with Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney both jockeying for big donors, fundraisers and top campaign talent.
One big question now is whether there is still room for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with Bush and Romney both all but in the race and competing for Wall Street money and establishment support.
Christie's biggest Wall Street backer, billionaire Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, acknowledged to me this week that Bush and Romney would take some of the big money that otherwise might have gone to Christie.
"Can you do math? Well, you will have less money to go around if you have three people going for it instead of two," he said.
But Langone also rejected the idea—floated by both Romney and Bush supporters—that Christie was now the odd man out and would be unable to garner enough financial support to run in what looks like it will be a very crowded GOP primary.
"They can say whatever they want," Langone told me of Christie's doubters. "I could say I'm going to kick King Kong's ass, but you won't know until I've done it. They could say the sky is going to come up yellow tomorrow. I am going to work my ass off to make sure that Chris Christie never needs money."
But money is not Christie's only problem. He also faces reports that his 2013 re-election campaign received subpoenas over allegations of further political retribution beyond the George Washington Bridge lane closures.
None of the allegations may ever touch Christie. But would-be supporters, donors and campaign staff now have another reason to hold off given the air of uncertainty surrounding the issues.
And again this week, Christie showed off his prickly side, castigating New Jersey reporters as "children" for complaining that they were shut out of an off-the-record meeting between the governor and national reporters.
Christie was right that most people don't "care a whit" about which reporters get invited to which meeting. But the public is not the point right now. These consistent displays of temper tend to freak out donors who don't want to get on board a political train that could wind up in an early ditch in Iowa, New Hampshire or one of the other early primary and caucus states.
Christie's no-nonsense, straightforward style is one of his greatest political attributes. But if he can't keep it somewhat in check it could also derail his presidential hopes.
Christie will also have to deal with heavy criticism of New Jersey's economic performance when compared with the rest of the nation (not to mention the performance of Texas and Florida under Govs. Rick Perry and Bush). And credit rating downgrades of the state under Christie's watch don't help either. Nor does the dismal state of Atlantic City.
Still, it was not all bad news for Christie this week. Because it was actually a much worse week for Romney, whose efforts to mount a third presidential bid got panned by pretty much everyone.
Romney's former campaign co-chair Vin Weber said he was "not happy" about a Romney candidacy, according to a Bloomberg report. And attendees at the RNC winter meeting in San Diego told Politico they also were not too thrilled with the idea of another Romney run.
It's not at all clear that any of this criticism will dissuade Romney. But if it does, it would make Christie's path in the race as an establishment alternative to Bush a little clearer.
But right now Bush has the upper hand by a large margin. Christie's finance chair, Ray Washburne, hails from Texas, where the Bush clan is a dominant presence. And the former Florida governor continues to impress people with the sure-footed nature of his early moves to set up leadership and super PACs while speaking directly to supporters in English and Spanish through his Facebook and Twitter feeds.
There is a world of time between now and when the GOP primary season actually begins. But right now Bush looks like a strong favorite to lead the establishment wing against whomever emerges as the activist wing's first choice. Chris Christie could still make a run for that slot but right now he is facing long odds.
—By Ben White. White is Politico's chief economic correspondent and a CNBC contributor. He also authors the daily tip sheet Politico Morning Money [politico.com/morningmoney]. Follow him on Twitter .