A senior Republican strategist familiar with the plans, speaking only on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the sit-down was put in the books some time ago, "in the couple to several weeks range."
The source said the meeting, which was first reported by The New York Times
on Wednesday, was requested by Bush as a gesture of respect for Romney's leadership role in the party — much like a recent Bush-John McCain meeting that took place at Bush's request.
"Well obviously Governor Romney has changed the dynamics," the source said.
Separately, two Romney sources and a senior Bush source confirmed that the meeting will take place.
Bush was spotted
Thursday morning by CBS News boarding a flight from Washington to Salt Lake City. Asked if it was true he's meeting with Romney, Bush responded: "I like to ski. I can't comment."
When he arrived in Salt Lake City, he was met by a crowd of reporters and supporters who followed him from the gate through the airport. One man approached Bush and handed him what looked like a business card.
"I'm a Republican. I'm in the oil business. And I'm an actor," the man said. "And I voted for your dad."
"Thank you," Bush said, accepting the card as he continued to walk.
Bush briefly signed autographs outside and was followed by the small flock until he got into an SUV.
"Thank you, Mr. President," one man shouted.
The former Florida governor's itinerary this week also includes a speech Friday in San Francisco at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention.
Romney told a group of donors
in New York on Jan. 9 that he was angling towards another run at the White House, less than a month after Bush jumped to Republican frontrunner status
following his own announcement
that he was actively exploring a bid.
The Romney announcement shook the early 2016 pre-presidential campaign and sparked confusion and competition as both men were now courting similar donors and influential Republicans behind the scenes.
Making the competition more tense was a new CBS News poll
this week that showed nearly six in 10 Republicans want Romney to run for president, while 50% feel the same about Bush.
One reporter at the airport in Utah asked if the meeting would be awkward.
"No," Bush replied flatly.
At times, their paths have almost crossed. Romney spoke publicly
at last week's Republican National Committee meeting in San Diego, for example, while Bush was also in Southern California
Their circles are further overlapping as the two potential candidates start to staff up. CNN's Mark Preston reported earlier this week that two of Romney's former aides -- Megan Sowards and Matt Gorman -- are poised to play key roles
in a potential Bush campaign.
Ever since the prospect of a third Romney campaign became serious, Bush has played nice about his potential competitor. According to Bloomberg Politics
, Bush praised the 2012 nominee at a private fundraiser Wednesday in Washington, saying he doesn't expect he'll need to wage ugly campaigns against his opponents to win a primary.
Neither Bush nor Romney are scheduled so far to attend a major gathering of conservatives this weekend in Iowa. Nearly 10 prospective Republican candidates, including Gov. Chris Christie, will speak at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines on Saturday hosted by Citizens United and Rep. Steve King.
While Bush's absence has stoked speculation that the former governor might plan to leave the first-in-the-nation caucus state out of his campaign strategy, Bush called the state's GOP chairman on Wednesday to assure him that he plans to make Iowa a priority, the Des Moines Register reported
"What I heard is a man that's ready to come out and tackle the Hawkeye state," Kaufmann said, though he noted that Bush stressed he's still only considering a run and hasn't become an official candidate.
Last week Ted Gatsas, mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire, tweeted that Bush had called him and told him he plans on coming to the Granite State, which holds the nominating season's first primary, at some point, according to the Union Leader