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And then there were 15 — Jeb Bush announces presidential candidacy

The field of presidential primary contenders is getting crowded. NPR’s White House correspondent Tamara Keith and the Cook Report’s Amy Walter talk with Hari Sreenivasan about how Jeb Bush’s candidacy will affect the race, as well as Hillary Clinton’s opinions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the defeat of the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Jeb Bush first entered the presidential conversation in the late '90s. But, today, for the first time, he entered the presidential race itself, announcing his candidacy at an event in Miami.

    Our political director, Lisa Desjardins, reports.

  • MAN:

    The next president of the United States of America, Jeb Bush!

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Bounding into a packed Miami-Dade College with an executive resume and power name, Jeb Bush began bluntly saying the country is on a very bad course.

    JEB BUSH (R), Presidential Candidate: The question for me is, what am I going to do about it? And I have decided I'm a candidate for president of the United States of America!

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    A moderate to some Republicans, a conservative to others, Bush's largest target was the other party and national security.

  • JEB BUSH:

    With their phone-it-in foreign policy, the Obama/Clinton/Kerry team is leaving a legacy of crises uncontained, violence unopposed, enemies unnamed, friends undefended and alliances unraveling.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Bush launches with mixed political blessings, the son and brother of presidents and a two-term high-profile governor in his own right.

    Leslie Sanchez is a Republican strategist who worked for President George W. Bush.

  • LESLIE SANCHEZ, Republican Strategist:

    He's a proven reform governor. He has reached across the aisles, built a broad coalition and dealt with a very diverse state. The disadvantages are, there is a halo effect around the Bush name. There is a suspicion among base conservatives that he is not going to be fiscally conservative enough, he will follow in the steps of George W. Bush and be a big-government conservative.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Another conservative headwind for Bush will be immigration. The former governor is calling for legal status, though not citizenship, for millions of undocumented residents, and calling out his party.

  • JEB BUSH:

    The simple fact is there is no plan to deport 11 million people. We should give them a pass to legal status, where they work, where they don't receive government benefits, where they don't break the law, where they learn English, and where they make a contribution to our society. That's what we need to be focused on.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    On foreign policy, Bush took a more hawkish tack on a European tour last week. He has called for more U.S. trainers in Iraq and for a greater military presence in Eastern Europe to counter Putin's Russia.

  • JEB BUSH:

    This is not just a regional issue. It's a global issue, that if, in partnership with Europe, the United States is resolute and is firm and is strong, that we can create a deterrent effect that will bring more stability, not just to Ukraine, but also to the Balkans.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    The backdrop to all of this is a fight for the future of the Republican Party, with Bush trying to redefine the GOP and himself more broadly.

  • LESLIE SANCHEZ:

    This is a chance to rebrand himself and sharpen himself as not necessarily the establishment Republican, but a new type of Republican. It's going to be a difficult task, but I think he has a tremendous track record to run on.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    It was a speech about records from a legacy candidate who went out of his way to play down that legacy.

  • JEB BUSH:

    Not one of us deserves the job by right of resume, party, seniority, family or family narrative. It's nobody's turn. It's everybody's test. And it's wide open, exactly as the contest for president should be.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Now officially candidate Bush, his next stop is New Hampshire tomorrow.

    Lisa Desjardins, "PBS NewsHour."

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Bush announced today. Hillary Clinton held her first major rally on Saturday.

    No better time to talk about this week of campaign legacies and liftoffs than Politics Monday.

    Joining me are our regular contributors, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    So, Jeb Bush launches with just Jeb.

  • AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:

    Yes, exclamation point.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Exclamation point, but we all knew he was running. What is the difference between when you say you're running vs. all the weeks leading up to it, when everybody suspected you were?

  • AMY WALTER:

    That's right.

    Well, there are a lot of limitations when you announce that you are a candidate, in terms of your ability to work with outside groups. Remember, he has this big super PAC that has been raising a lot of money, unregulated, unrestricted money. Now he is going to have to raise restricted money for his own campaign.

    But here is what you can't do when you are a non-candidate. You can't really lay out the rationale for why you want to be president, because are you not really technically running for president. So the debate about Jeb Bush has been happening in a vacuum. It's all about how other people feel about Jeb Bush, not the case that he is making for himself about why he should be president.

    That is what this kickoff was today. That's what these next couple days are going to be, when he goes on the road to these early states. He has been hobbled by the fact that the other people in the field have been defining him. Now here's his chance to do it for himself.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And it's a crowded field. This is already, what, nine, 10 declared folks. And there's probably at least four or five in the wings, right?

  • TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio:

    Well, absolutely, another governor at least, probably, or two, at least another two governors.

    Yes. And he sort much alluded to that crowded field during his speech, saying, there are a lot of us running. That's great. We should have a lot of us running, and that our biographies, our resumes, our family legacies shouldn't — doesn't — it doesn't mean that anyone deserves this. We all need to fight it out.

    So I guess he's acknowledging that he didn't blow away the field before he got in.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Right.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Right. Right. And the family legacy question is an interesting one, because clearly someone thought about the fact to leave "Bush" off the placard and the logo.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Yes. Now, there is also not a Clinton on the Hillary sign, right?

    (LAUGHTER)

    (CROSSTALK)

  • AMY WALTER:

    No, there is just an H.

    And when you talk to the Clinton campaign, they refer to her as Hillary. So they're making very — both of these legacy candidates are making a very concerted effort to say, let's not focus on the last name piece. Let's focus on the first name.

    The good and bad news for Jeb Bush is his last name, while it has opened a lot of doors for him, it is obviously a big problem for him in terms of the fact that so many folks see that as a negative, both for the legacy purpose and the fact that they don't really like George W. Bush.

    But I just still think he's not as well-defined as Hillary Clinton is. People really don't know who Jeb Bush is. He was last on the scene in 2006 as a governor. That, in political terms, is like light-years ago.

    Hillary Clinton's challenge, I think, is everybody thinks they know who she is, because they have seen her and she has been in the public eye for 25 years. Can she change that perception?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Yes. And Bush is still just W.'s little brother to everybody.

    And in his speech, he did say, I met my first president the day I was born, and I met my second president the day I came home from the hospital. That was his way of sort of alluding to his family legacy. But that is what people know about him.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Right, right.

    So, Tamara, you have been covering Hillary since she announced and even before then. Even in the past couple of days, obviously, there was a lot of attention. We paid some attention to it on the weekend news this week when she launched, or at least that rally. But what has she been up to? And today the news seems to be a little bit more about trade, at least on the Hill.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Right, and that was actually the news yesterday too, was about trade.

    On Saturday, she did her big launch address, and she didn't mention trade. And she took some heat for that. That is the hottest debate in Democratic politics right now. And she didn't touch it. And so then, yesterday in Iowa — and I was there — she went about 20 minutes into her speech, and then she sort of paused, turned, and said, and now I'm going to talk about trade.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Yes.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    And she isn't taking a position on it, really.

    Yesterday, she did her first sit-down interviews of this campaign, and then today she held her first formal press conference with a podium.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Let's take a listen a piece of sound from there.

    HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), Presidential Candidate: The issue for me is, what is in the deal?

    And I think now there's an opportunity for the president and his team to reach out and meet with the people who have said on the floor, like Nancy Pelosi did, that we need a better deal, not I'm against it no matter what is in it or, as many did, I'm for it no matter what's in it.

    I think this is a chance to use this leverage, so that the deal does become one that more Americans and more members of Congress can vote for. I will wait and see what the deal is, and then I will tell you what I think about it.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Was there an answer there?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    No, no.

  • AMY WALTER:

    I couldn't find one.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Yes. And let me try to unpack this year.

    There is the trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that the president is negotiating. And then there is TPA, fast track trade authority that the president wants. He was delivered a defeat on that last week by Congress.

    So reporters have been trying to get her to say, well, what do you think of TPP? And she says, well, we have to see what is in the deal. And then you say, well, what do you think of the fast track trade authority, would you vote for that, would you support that? And she says, well, the president should use that defeat to negotiate a better deal on trade.

    But she doesn't say whether she would support it or not. She is just — she's just trying desperately not to have to actually take a yes or no position on this thing.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And this also points to the relationship that she has to figure out with the president.

  • AMY WALTER:

    With the president and with Congress, of course.

    And, look, she needs a strong president going into 2016, to have a president who has had success, who has a high approval rating, who is doing well and seen as strong overseas. This doesn't help. Now, I'm not going to argue that losing a trade vote is the end of the Obama presidency and his numbers are going to collapse.

    But she both needs to be careful not to anger her base, which saying — coming out and supporting the president would be — angering the base, while also making sure that the president doesn't look weak. That is a very difficult position for her to be in.

    She doesn't want to be in this position. You can see from the answers that she was giving, just wanting this to be over.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    I mean, the trade policy right now is one of the kind of trifecta of the Obama legacy that he wants to leave behind. It's this. It's the Iran nuclear deal. It's Cuba. When it comes to his entire foreign policy, if he can't get through this, doesn't that make him the type of president she doesn't need going into this election?

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    Well, it certainly would make him officially, truly a lame duck. And he is on the precipice.

    I mean, he is like — he is about to become a lame duck, if this goes wrong, you know, the Iran negotiations — it's unclear how that is turning out. This is a time for him.

  • AMY WALTER:

    Absolutely.

    June 30, big deal, because you have the Iran deadline. We also are going to hear from the Supreme Court about health care, which is his other legacy. Right? If the Supreme Court rules against a piece of the Obamacare and the subsidies, that's another blow to him.

    And then, of course, as Tamara pointed out, some of the other issues coming up for him. The one thing I will say about trade, though, look, Democrats have never loved the issue of trade, all right? So the idea that he was going to be able to get this over the finish line was always something of a long shot.

    If you look at the history of Democrats in the last 15 years, you have only gotten about 15 percent of Democrats to sign on, in the House at least, to sign on to trade bills. And so this is something where he is really pushing a rock uphill.

    And, again, for Hillary Clinton, it's coming out against something that not only does your base dislike, but it dislikes vehemently.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And it seems like Congress might even be trying to table this off for longer.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    They are — they could take it up this week. They could not. They aren't saying. I guess we will find out soon enough.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    NPR's Tamara Keith and The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter, thanks so much for joining us.

  • TAMARA KEITH:

    You're welcome.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And to find out where Jeb Bush and all of the other announced candidates stand on key issues, from climate change to Iraq, go to our Web site and our What the Candidates Believe page at PBS.org/NewsHour.

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