TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday took his most definitive step yet toward running for president, announcing plans to “actively explore” a campaign and form a new political operation allowing him to raise money for like-minded Republicans.
In a holiday message posted on Bush’s Facebook page and Twitter account, the son and brother of past Republican presidents said he discussed the “future of our nation” and a potential bid for the White House with members of his family over the Thanksgiving holiday.
“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 of the United States,” Bush wrote.
He added, “In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America.”
Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Bush, 61, said he has not yet made a final decision on whether to seek the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2016. She said that he will announce his decision next year “after gauging support” for a run.
“This is a natural next step and represents a new phase of his consideration process,” Campbell said.
That phase will include an expansion of Bush’s political operations. He said Tuesday he will start his own leadership political action committee in January, which will allow him to raise money and use it to support candidates in other races.
In his statement, Bush said the committee “will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.”
Should he ultimately decide to run, Bush can tap into his family’s vast political network and his campaign would attract strong support from the same donor pool that other establishment-minded Republicans — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie among them — need to fuel their own prospective campaigns.
A Bush candidacy also has the potential to affect the plans of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who came up through Florida politics as a strong Bush supporter and is considering whether to seek re-election to the Senate or run for president in 2016.
Richard Schwarm, a former Iowa state Republican Party chairman, said he expected Bush to run in the Iowa caucuses, as did his father and brother. Schwarm was among the earliest supporters of George W. Bush, and among those who went to Austin, Tex., to court the then-Texas governor in 1999.
“I think if you’re going to be a national candidate you have to go where the ballots are and not be afraid to trust your campaign to Iowa voters, New Hampshire voters, Nevada voters and South Carolina voters,” said Schwarm, who considers Bush among his top considerations for president.
Tuesday’s statement is the latest and most definitive signal that Bush plans to try and become the third member of his family to serve as president. In a TV interview this past weekend, he said he “would be a good president,” disclosed that he was writing an e-book about his time as governor that would come out in the spring, and promised to release about 250,000 emails from his time in office.
During his two terms as Florida governor, Bush pushed for large tax cuts, overhauled Florida’s education system and led the charge to eliminate race-based policies in college admissions and state spending.
Since leaving office, Bush has continued to advocate for more changes to the nation’s schools, including the adoption of new education standards known as Common Core. Those standards have drawn the ire of conservatives who view them as a federal intrusion into local classrooms, but Bush has continued to call them critical to overhauling the country’s education system, while seeking common ground with opponents by saying states should be allowed to develop their own education programs.
Schwarm said while Bush holds some positions that don’t sit well with some GOP activists, such as the Common Core standards, “I think they’ll realize his honesty and integrity on speaking out on his mind shows he has the courage of his convictions.”
“Iowans will give him a serious look,” Schwarm said. “And that’s all candidates can ask for. It’s up to him to make the sale to Iowans.”
Associated Press writer Thomas Beaumont contributed to this report from Des Moines, Iowa.