Jeb Bush candidacy move fires up White House race

Son and brother of former Bush presidents says he will ‘actively explore’ possible candidacy

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush. He  is the first Republican to announce formally that he is exploring a candidacy. Photograph: Andy Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush. He is the first Republican to announce formally that he is exploring a candidacy. Photograph: Andy Jacobsohn/Getty Images

 

Jeb Bush, the son and young brother of former US presidents, has fired up the next race for the White House by announcing that he will “actively explore the possibility of running for president” in 2016.

The former Florida governor, using social media Facebook and Twitter to move beyond vague clues about his intentions, is the first Republican to announce formally that he is exploring a candidacy.

Mr Bush (61) said he had decided, following discussions with his family over Thanksgiving, to consider a run “as a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs”.

Laying down a marker to other candidates, donors and party activists, he said he plans to set up a “leadership PAC [political action committee]” in January that would help him raise funds for a campaign and “facilitate conversations with citizens across America”.

Packed field

The decision ends long-term uncertainty around whether Mr Bush, who last held public office in 2007, was interested in a run after his older brother, a governor of Texas, pipped him to it, winning in 2000.

It puts Jeb Bush, a two-term governor from a swing state that is crucial in presidential races, in front in a packed field before the start of primary season when the parties start considering nominees.

Mr Bush holds a slight lead, in the mid-teens, over a large group that includes New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, 2012 vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan and Kentucky senator Rand Paul, according to an average of polls collated by the Real Clear Politics website.

Other candidates include Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, Texas governor Rick Perry, senator Ted Cruz, also from Texas, and senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

“It is the kind of announcement that will shake the Republican field because now there is someone that others can see easily becoming the nominee and who can raise a lot of money very quickly, which in our political system is exactly what frightens away others,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

Mr Bush said he would release 250,000 emails from his time as governor and an e-book next year outlining his policy positions, both seen as laying the ground for a presidential bid. President George W Bush said earlier this month that his brother knew that he wanted him to run, while another brother Neil said that their mother Barbara, who had expressed reluctance about a third Bush presidency, had “come around” to the idea of another son running.

Bush-Clinton rematch

A third Bush candidacy raises the prospect of a Bush-Clinton rematch, replicating the 1992 contest, as former first lady Hillary Clinton is the outright favourite to be the Democratic nominee, even though she has yet to declare her intentions.

Jeb Bush is a conservative but seen as a bridge-builder with establishment Republicans in a divided party because of his moderate views on immigration and education. He must step out from the shadow of his brother, who left the country stuck in two unpopular wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.