Jeb Bush, the former Governor of Florida, threw open the starting gates of the 2016 campaign for the White House last night announcing, via social media, that he had decided to “actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States”.
While speculation had been gathering about a possible run by Mr Bush, 61, notwithstanding suggestions that voters may not be ready for a third Bush president, the timing caught many by surprise. He had said only at the weekend he would make a decision whether to run at the end of this year or early in 2015.
The slightly tortuous wording of statements on both Facebook and Twitter leaves Mr Bush a window to back out of, but barring some unforeseen circumstance that would now seem most unlikely. As far as the American political universe is concerned, he is now a candidate. With Hillary Clinton seemingly readying to seek the Democratic nod, that throws up the prospect of a potential Bush-Clinton race. Mr Bush is the brother of George W Bush. Their father, George H W Bush was President between 1989 and 1993.
The candidacy creates instant roadblocks for several other Republican aspirants. His huge name-recognition and network of allies and donors means he will get a headstart corralling funds in Florida, obstructing Senator Marco Rubio, who is also from that state. Likewise, he will soak up donor generosity in Texas, where the Bush clan’s political network is based, impeding Governor Rick Perry and Senator Ted Cruz.
It also sets up a brawl for the soul of the Republican Party where Mr Bush, a standard-bearer for its moderate and establishment wing, will be forced to do battle with the still powerful right fringe of the party, which will doubtless field its own candidates, possibly including Senator Cruz, to try to deny him the nomination.
The former Governor is the first of about a dozen Republicans known to be pondering the presidency formally to move forward, among them former candidates Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. He said on Facebook he reached the decision after talking about “the future of our nation” with his family over Thanksgiving. Recent months have seen several members of the Bush clan expressing support for his running.
“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,” he wrote, saying he intended to set up a new super-PAC in the new year as a vehicle for his bid.
Mr Bush will need to distinguish himself from his brother who was extremely unpopular when he left office. But he has clearly concluded he has a realistic chance of defeating Ms Clinton should she emerge as the Democrats’ choice. Ms Clinton, a former senator and Secretary of State, is looking slightly less than formidable, in part because the Democratic Party faces deep internal divisions of its own as its liberal wing becomes ever more vocal in urging Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts to take up its cause and challenge her from the left.
A successful run by Mr Bush, who was Florida Governor from 1992 to 2007, may end up settling the struggle between the different flanks of the Republican Party, which can be traced back to the sudden surge of the Tea Party movement within its ranks five years ago.
If Mr Bush expects fierce battle from both the right and the libertarian wings of the party – the latter hopes to galvanise support for Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky – he may also face competition from other moderate aspirants who will now urgently examine their prospects in the light of his announcement. They could include Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and possibly even the last nominee, Mitt Romney.Reuse content