Jeb Bush formally declared his candidacy for the White House on Monday.
“Our country is on a very bad course. And the question is: What are we going to do about it? The question for me is: What am I going to do about it? And I have decided — I am a candidate for president of the United States,” Bush said during a rally at Miami Dade College’s Kendall campus.
With that announcement, the former Florida governor becomes the 11th major Republican candidate seeking the party’s presidential nomination.
John Ellis Bush, better known as Jeb, is the second son of former President George H.W. Bush and the younger brother of former President George W. Bush. And those facts of genealogy have both defined and frustrated Jeb Bush as he explored his own White House run.
There’s the dynasty question — even his mother, Barbara, once famously said “we’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House, although she has since amended her remarks and supports her son’s bid.
And there’s the legacy question — Bush stumbled answering the question if, knowing what we now know, he would have authorized the U.S. war with Iraq that George W. Bush launched. And memories are still fresh of the Great Recession, which began during George W. Bush’s tenure. Jeb Bush has asserted he “is his own man” but has also said his brother is one of his top advisers.
Bush’s own political experience began in Florida, where he moved after graduating from the University of Texas. He worked in commercial real estate and made his first run for elective office, an unsuccessful campaign for governor, in 1994 against incumbent Lawton Chiles.
Four years later, he ran again, this time beating the Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay. Bush was re-elected in 2002.
In his two terms as governor, Bush cut taxes and spending and, as S.V. Date wrote in Politico, promoted a range of conservative ideas:
“For pro-gun conservatives, Jeb approved an enhanced concealed carry law and, infamously, the NRA-written ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. (After Trayvon Martin, Jeb said he did not believe it should have been applied in that instance.)
“For religious conservatives, Jeb rammed through education bills that created the first statewide school voucher programs in the nation, and then spent years defending them against oversight attempts. He approved the ‘Choose Life’ license plate and sent state money to groups that counseled women against having abortions. And, famously, he pushed through legislation allowing him as governor to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case — and at the very end nearly triggered a showdown with a local judge by sending state police officers to seize her from a Tampa Bay area hospice.”
Yet Bush is still viewed with suspicion by many conservatives as he formally launches his White House bid. He supports the Common Core education curriculum and backs immigration reform. (He speaks Spanish fluently, and his wife, Columba, is from Mexico.)
Partly because of those acts of apostasy, partly because of concerns over electing another Bush, partly because of the sheer number of other Republicans seeking the nomination, Bush has not broken out of the pack, based on early polls.
His nascent campaign has already undergone what some have called a shake-up, or at least a shifting around of top advisers. And there have been questions about whether the campaign and the superPAC that backs Bush have raised the prodigious sums that were once expected.
But the first round of primaries and caucuses is still months from now, plenty of time for this scion of the GOP establishment to, well, establish himself.
For more on Bush’s candidacy, check out our coverage on the It’s All Politics blog.