Republican Jeb Bush Moves Toward Presidential Candidacy

The brother of the last Republican president is weighing a candidacy of his own.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 15, 2013
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 15, 2013 (Gage Skidmore)

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush made the first move toward seeking his Republican Party’s presidential nomination on Tuesday, writing on Facebook he would establish a political action committee early next year.

Such an organization allows presidential hopefuls to approach donors and supporters and is seen as a stepping stone toward a formal candidacy.

Bush’s announcement raises the prospect of a clash between two American political dynasties in 2016.

Jeb’s father, George H.W., lost the 1992 presidential election against Democrat Bill Clinton — who was succeeded in 2001 by Jeb’s younger brother, George W. Bush. Clinton’s wife, Hillary, who was President Barack Obama’s first secretary of state, is expected to seek and win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

The Republican could struggle to endear diehard conservatives who mistrust his relatively moderate positions on education and immigration policy.

Bush supports legal status, but not citizenship, for illegal immigrants as well as federal language and mathematics standards in primary schools.

Many right-wing Republicans reject both. The policies are more popular among ethnic minorities, constituencies Republicans have struggled to appeal to nationwide

Bush won a majority of the Hispanic vote when he ran for the governorship of Florida in 2002. Mitt Romney, the last Republican presidential candidate, got only 27 percent support from Hispanic voters in 2012.

In a presidential election, Florida’s 29 electoral votes can make a crucial difference. Bush could also make Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, states with large Hispanic populations that Barack Obama won in the last election, competitive again.

Challenging rightwingers who call for ideological purity in the wake of two presidential election defeats, Bush argued in an interview last year, “We need to be the governing party. The whole point of this is to take conservative principles and apply them. And the only way you can do that is get fifty plus one.”

A closer look at his governing record in Florida reveals Bush is far less of a moderate than his opponents allow.

Over the course of eight years, Bush reduced taxes by $14 billion in Florida. He eliminated thousands of public-sector jobs by outsourcing state duties. He introduced tougher crime laws for repeat offenders and expanded gun rights. Bush also created America’s first statewide school voucher program in Florida and has actively championed conservative education reforms, including charter schools, since.

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