First Jeb Jr. endorsed Jon Huntsman. His brother, George P., praised Rick Perry.

Last week, George H.W. Bush made news when he came out for Mitt Romney.

George W. says he won't be throwing his weight behind anyone in the Republican presidential nominating fight, though someone close to the former president said he has taken calls from a few candidates and dispensed only " very generic" advice when asked.

Which leaves Jeb. Sr., the elusive endorsement that seems most coveted by the candidates.

The current presidential election cycle is the first since 1976 to be taking place without a Bush in a statewide or national office or seeking a national office. Yet the Bush family primary, a behind-the-scenes drama that has been playing out in the GOP contest for months, is taking on as much significance as ever.

To win an endorsement even from the most obscure of the Bushes -- George W. siblings Marvin and Doro have backed Romney -- is to share in a political brand that bestows legitimacy and open doors.

Much of the family's vaunted fundraising network is either holding back or dispersing itself among various campaigns, depleting its influence as a singular force to pick a winner.

So the major candidates are left to jockey for the next best thing: personal support.