WASHINGTON - Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has taken a major step toward running for president in 2016.
On Tuesday, Bush posted messages on his Facebook page and Twitter account that he plans to actively explore a bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, with a final decision expected next year.
In his announcement, Bush, 61, said he had discussed a possible White House bid with his family last month over the Thanksgiving holiday.
Bush, the son of one former U.S. president and the brother of another, would be considered one of the favorites for the Republican Party nomination should he decide to run. Pundits expect a very crowded field of Republican presidential contenders for 2016.
Discussed campaign possibility
Bush discussed the possibility of a presidential campaign in a recent interview with Miami television station WPLG.
“I am who I have been. I believe in reform when things are broken and I believe in limited government and I believe in liberty being the driver of a successful country. And as part of that, fixing a broken immigration system is critical,” he said.
Bush’s stance on immigration reform has drawn fire from conservatives within the Republican Party, some of whom are likely to challenge him in the Republican presidential primaries if he decides to run.
Bush said he believes voters are looking for a candidate who embodies big ideas.
“You can do big things if you set the stage in a campaign and then move forward,” he said.
“If you run with big ideas and then you are true to those ideas and get a chance to serve and implement them and do it with passion and conviction, you can move the needle [effect change] and that is what we need right now in America,” Bush added.
In the latest McClatchy-Marist poll on potential Republican presidential contenders, Bush came in second with 14 percent support behind 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who had 19 percent.
Bush’s announcement is likely to set off a chain reaction among other Republicans considering a presidential bid in 2016 and could cause some of them to speed up their timetable for deciding on a presidential run.
John Fortier, a political analyst with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, said, “The Republicans will have a large field of people and various wings of the party represented, and it is a little unclear in that multi-candidate race how someone will emerge or who will emerge.”
Bush has strong name recognition nationally and is a proven fundraiser. But he has not run a campaign since 2002 and would be running in a Republican Party that has grown more conservative.
Bush won two elections as governor in Florida with help from Hispanic voters, and Republicans may be looking for a candidate who can appeal more broadly to a 2016 electorate that will include growing numbers of Hispanic and Asian-American voters. President Barack Obama relied on Hispanic support in his two election victories in 2008 and 2012.
Republican strategist Whit Ayres said Bush’s ability to draw Hispanic votes could be an asset in the 2016 election.
“We got one-third of the Hispanic vote. We have got to do better with Hispanics, with Asians. We have seen that coming. It is not arguable and it is simply the challenge that we have to meet successfully if we will ever elect another president,” Ayres said.
In addition to Bush, the Republican presidential field could include New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, among others.
A Bush candidacy would also set up the possibility of another Bush-Clinton showdown reminiscent of the 1992 election in which Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush, Jeb Bush’s father.
Clinton’s wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is a heavy favorite to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, should she decide to run.
Jeb Bush is also the younger brother of former President George W. Bush, who left office in 2009 after two terms in the White House.