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How serious are Jeb Bush’s first steps toward a 2016 presidential campaign?

After a series of recent actions that signaled his political intentions for the executive office, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced Tuesday his plans to “actively explore” a 2016 run for president.

Bush, whose father and brother have previously served as president, has yet to formally pursue a 2016 candidacy. But on a Facebook post posted Tuesday morning, Bush said he plans to start a leadership political action committee at the beginning of 2015 to “support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.”

The PBS NewsHour spoke with Washington Post’s Dan Balz on Bush’s potential quest for the White House, the first steps politicians take to jump start a presidential campaign, and the possibility of another Bush-Clinton bout.

NewsHour: How serious is Bush’s announcement? Is this a sure sign he’s serious about running?

Dan Balz, Washington Post: I think it’s a very serious sign. He’s been moving in this direction for some time, and I think for him to do what he did today is the clearest indication to date that he’s likely to become a formal candidate.

What steps does a politician take before making an announcement like this? How much exploration (polling, etc.) was done before his announcement?

Dan Balz: He’s been doing a lot of what you would call “due diligence” over many months. He has been moving around the country; he did some campaigning for people during the midterm elections and, therefore, he was able to, kind of gauge sentiment in different states and gauge the kind of reaction he got as he went into different places.

We know he’s been in contact with contributors, potential donors, and we also know that he’s been trying out some campaign themes. He was at a conference with The Wall Street Journal a week ago or two weeks ago. He talked about some of the issues that are important to him and also talked more openly about how he would approach the campaign. And I think all of that was, in one way or another, designed to give him some sense of the reaction to a campaign. So, he’s spent a lot of time gauging sentiment and I think, thinking about what this would mean for himself and for his family.


What do you think of Jeb Bush’s announcement that he’ll “actively explore” a run for president in 2016? Check out what voters in New York and Colorado had to say. Video by PBS NewsHour

Bush plans to release 250,000 emails from his two terms as governor. Was that unprecedented?

Dan Balz: It is and it isn’t. My understanding of this is that Florida has very strong what you would call sunshine laws. And I think these emails, some of them have been looked at before by members of the Florida press when he was governor. So, I think all of this probably would be available. It’s seems as though by saying he’s going to put them all out at once is a way to kind of clear the decks. But it’s another sign that he’s, you know, he knows that people are going to start exploring his background and his record. And he’s prepared to put those out proactively.

What about the fatigue already expressed with a potential Bush-Clinton run, pitting Bush against presumptive 2016 Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton?

Dan Balz: It’s one of the great unanswered questions. I mean, on the one hand, both of them are very credible presidential candidates given their experience. And even without the names, somebody who served two terms as the governor of one of the biggest states in the country, and somebody who’s been first lady, Senator from New York and Secretary of State would have credentials to run for president.

The fact that they happen to be named Clinton and Bush adds to it. But it adds to it in both a positive and potentially negative way. I mean, the positive is they’re very, very well known and so they start with bigger networks and bigger fundraising capacity than some of the other candidates. The negative, of course, is people would say, “Are we back to Clinton and Bush?” And I think only until we see both of them out on the campaign trail, if that’s what we’re gonna see, can we really gauge the degree to which there is fatigue over either Clinton or Bush, and particularly about the combination of a Bush-Clinton race in 2016.

Watch a full discussion on what’s shaking up the 2016 presidential campaign, on tonight’s PBS NewsHour.

PBS NewsHour reporter Joshua Barajas contributed to this report.