WASHINGTON—Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the son and brother of the last two Republican presidents, announced in a Facebook post Tuesday that he will “actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States” in the coming year.
The announcement is as concrete an indication from anyone in the prospective 2016 GOP field that they will officially enter the presidential contest, although others, like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have also made strong overtures by establishing robust political organizations, meeting with donors and making frequent visits to early primary states.
Bush said he would be forming a leadership PAC in January to travel around the country and support people and policies “that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.”
“In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America,” he wrote.
Bush has been signaling in recent weeks and months that he was strongly considering a presidential run. In a television interview with a local Florida station last week, Bush said he was planning an e-book and would release 250,000 e-mails from his time in office to give as transparent an account of his record as possible. On Monday, he gave a commencement speech at the University of South Carolina, in an early primary state.
Bush will be able to tap into a vast and powerful family network to finance his run, but would also confront unique challenges in an eventual bid, particularly in getting through the GOP’s primaries, where conservative voters hold particular sway.
He has not held office since 2002 — a time in which the party has been pulled to the right by the tea party movement and infused with a stronger strain of libertarianism. Bush has also embraced the nationalized educational standards known as Common Core and pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to legality for the undocumented, once saying that those illegally cross the U.S. border do so as an “act of love” for their families.
“I don’t know if I’d be a good candidate or a bad one,” he told a gathering of CEOs in Washington, at an event sponsored by the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. “I kind of know how a Republican can win, whether it’s me or somebody else – and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more wiling to be, ‘lose the primary to win the general’ without violating your principles.”
At the same event, Bush also laid out a list of key issues that could be the basis of a future campaign platform, including tax reform, a North American plan for energy, immigration reform, bolstering education in the United States, and entitlement reform.
Whether the Bush family name is an asset or a liability, after the tumultuous years of the most recent Bush administration, is also an open question — former President George W. Bush left office with an approval rating of 22 percent.
If former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also decides to run again, the 2016 presidential campaign season may turn into a battle between the two American political dynasties that have dominated the political scene for more than two decades and be a re-tread of the same issues.
"Jeb has a proven record as a very successful governor with a conservative record of improving education in the state," said Fred Malek, a Republican strategist who has been in contact with Jeb Bush. "He appeals to a very broad group of the party from the conservative to the moderate, and finally he’s got a huge national name recognition and national finance network that he can build upon."