The Associated Press
Wednesday, Mar. 06 2013
Another Bush for U.S. president?
Jeb Bush has long resisted pressure from supporters to run for president. Now the former Florida governor is signalling that he’s at least open to the idea, a shift that comes as he promotes a new book and Republicans struggle to rebound after President Barack Obama’s re-election.
“I’m not saying yes. I’m just not saying no,” Mr. Bush told NBC News earlier this week, one of a series of such comments he’s made as he talks about the book Immigration Wars in television interviews and forums.
Comments like those from Mr. Bush, 60, are in sharp contrast to past refusals to even entertain the idea of following in the footsteps of his older brother, former president George W. Bush, and their father, former president George H.W. Bush.
Less than three years before the first Republican presidential primaries, Mr. Bush’s words offer a window into his evolving thinking on a future run. Republicans and former advisers said that, if nothing else, he’s made clear to political operatives and donors that they shouldn’t count him out for 2016.
“He’s sent a very strong signal this week that he, for the first time, is going to seriously, seriously consider running,” said Cory Tilley, a former Bush aide in Florida. “It’s the signal that a lot of people have been waiting to hear.”
The scion to the Bush political dynasty left the Florida governor’s office in 2007 but since then has remained a major figure in the Republican Party, mainly through his efforts to influence education and immigration policy. His book is his latest step on that front. In it, he urges Congress to revamp a broken immigration system that he says is holding back the nation’s future and economic growth.
He caused a stir and irked some Republicans by writing that he did not support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Mr. Bush had expressed support for a pathway in the past, and later said he was open to a pathway to citizenship as long as it did not encourage illegal immigration.
That shift aside, and even without the famous last name, Mr. Bush would have strong presidential-candidate credentials. In the important swing state of Florida, Mr. Bush racked up strong job-performance ratings while revamping the state’s educational system, reorganizing government, cutting taxes and managing the state through several hurricanes.
His wife, Columba, is Mexican-American and Mr. Bush is fluent in Spanish. He won over a diverse electorate of Hispanics in Florida. That personal and political history could help him to connect with Latinos, significantly more of whom voted for Mr. Obama than Republican Mitt Romney last fall.
Even so, Mr. Bush would have vulnerabilities as a candidate – perhaps the biggest being his last name.
George W. Bush was unpopular when he left office in 2009. He continues to have approval ratings below 50 per cent, and exit polls conducted last November found more voters blamed the former president for the nation’s economic woes than Mr. Obama.