Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is basically running for president now, giving him instant frontrunner status and implicitly pressuring other Republicans to decide whether to run for the White House against him in 2016.
“I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States,” the Republican said on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday morning.
“In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation,” Bush wrote. “The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.”
Though the political action committee will help support others, its prime beneficiary is Bush and his presidential ambitions.
Bush didn’t explicitly say he’s definitely running, but the PAC is the clearest sign yet that an official announcement is likely a formality. The committee tells donors, activists and the general public that Bush is serious about a 2016 presidential bid.
“The big institutional donors of the Republican Party want to know where to put their money, and Jeb has now shown them where,” said Rick Willson, a Republican consultant from Tallahassee.
For months, as Bush hinted he would run, high-level Republican donors and fundraisers who backed Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign started wondering if Bush would run. So they tried to recruit Romney, which helped pressure Bush into this decision, Wilson speculated.
Bush’s announcement, his backers hope, will quiet the talk of a Romney resurrection.
A national McClatchy-Marist poll released Monday showed Romney would likely lead a crowded GOP field with 19 percent of the theoretical Republican vote. Bush received 14 percent support. Without Romney in the race, Bush would be the national frontrunner with 16 percent support.
Aside from Romney, Bush’s decision puts pressure on his protégé, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Rubio said last week he’d make his intentions known soon and that his decision would be independent of what his “friend” Bush does.
Rubio earned between 3 and 6 percent support in the McClatchy poll and would likely lose Florida to Bush in a crowded GOP primary or in a head-to-head matchup, according to a Saint Leo University Polling Institute online survey released last week.
Christie, the outgoing head of the Republican Governors Association, said last month during a Boca Raton RGA meeting that he’d make a decision as well.
Close to Wall Street and once a favorite of the so-called “Romney money” class of donors, Christie’s political star dimmed earlier this year in the wake of a scandal over bridge construction in his home state. That led more supporters of the Republican establishment to court Bush. The McClatchy-Marist poll showed Christie earning just 9 or 10 percent of the theoretical Republican vote.
Generally, presidential campaigns expose a fault line between establishment candidates like Bush and potential candidates who excite grassroots activists such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has dropped hints he’ll run.
In Republican races, the establishment candidate often wins out. But this election could be different
“The establishment candidate needs total control of the donor class,” Wilson said, predicting trouble for Bush in the GOP primary due to his support for comprehensive immigration reform and the Common Core Educational Standards that some conservatives have bashed as federal overreach or “Obamacore.”
Though once considered a conservative governor from 1999-2007, Bush’s support for immigration reform and Common Core have led modern-day conservatives and tea partiers to bash him as a moderate.
Some one-time supporters of Common Core who are considering a presidential bid, like Rubio and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have backed away from it. But Bush hasn’t.
Earlier this month at a Wall Street Journal forum, Bush suggested that he wouldn’t try to run to the right for the GOP primary and then tack back to the center in a general election. He said a candidate needs to be “much more willing to…lose the primary to win the general [election] without violating your principles.”
This story will be updated later in the day.
Jeb Bush’s Facebook post
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
Like many of you, our family was blessed with the opportunity to gather together over the recent Thanksgiving holiday.
Columba and I are so proud of the wonderful adults our children have become, and we loved spending time with our three precious grandchildren.
We shared good food and watched a whole lot of football.
We also talked about the future of our nation. As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.
In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas 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.
Best wishes to you and your families for a happy holiday season. I’ll be in touch soon.
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