Jeb Bush Sounds More And More Like A Presidential Candidate

The former Florida Governor is talking more openly about running for President than he ever has before.

Jeb Bush Testifies At House Hearing On Free Enterprise And Economic Growth

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is talking more openly about running for President than he ever has in the past:

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said Sunday that he will base his decision on whether to run for president in 2016 on whether he thinks he can mount a campaign that would transcend the modern-day mechanics of such a run.

Bush, the second-oldest son of former president George H. W. Bush and younger brother of George W. Bush, spoke at an event marking the 25th anniversary of his father’s presidency at the library and museum that bears the patriarch’s name. The event was closed to reporters, but moderated by Fox News anchor Shannon Bream and portions of the event were later broadcast on the Fox News Channel.

In a rambling answer that suggested he has given serious thought to the prospects of running for a job once held by his father and brother, Bush said he would decide whether to run for president by the end of this year. He appeared to bemoan the thought of having to spend time attending political cattle calls in early-primary states, suggesting that some candidates might devote too much time to questions such as, “How am I going to get to win the Muscatine Pork Roast straw poll, or something like that.”

Bush said he ultimately would base his decision on whether a candidate can “run with a hopeful, optimistic message, hopefully with enough detail to give people a sense that it’s not just idle words and not get back into the vortex of the mud fight.”

“In my case, that means can one do it joyfully without being tied to all the convention of the here and now?” he added.

Family considerations will also play a prominent role, he said, especially whether running a campaign would be a “huge sacrifice.”

 National Journal’s Sara Morrison has more:

Bush, who hasn’t held a political office since he was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, talked to Fox News today about his long-rumoredpresidential run, saying he’d figure out whether or not to run by the end of this year. In the meantime, he’s keeping busy by not caring about straw polls (oh, burn, CPAC) or worrying about the politics of a campaign because things could be totally different two years from now.

Instead, he wants to run a campaign with an “optimistic message” and avoid “the vortex of the mudfight.”

“Can one do it joyfully, without tied to all of the convention of the politics of the here and now?” Bush wondered.

This certainly sounds nice, but then again it’s not like any candidates ever say “I’m looking forward to running a wholly negative campaign that annihilates my opponent at every turn.” If Bush does run, it’d be difficult to emerge from the expected Republican nomination free-for-all with his hands completely clean.

Bush noted that he’s getting more attention now for being undecided about running than he would have gotten if he had made a decision — though this wasn’t intentional.

“I’m not that smart, I promise you,” Bush said.

As for his possible competitors for the Republican nomination, Bush called Chris Christie the “real deal” and “a spectacular guy” but wouldn’t comment on anyone else specifically.

Who doesn’t he like? Candidates who are running just to “make a point” and not to actually win the election or lead the country. You can go ahead and guess who he’s talking about there.

“Campaigns ought to be about listening and learning and getting better,” Bush optimistically and hopefully said. “I do think we’ve lost our way … Campaigns themselves are reflective of this new America.”

This is probably the most openly and candidly that Bush has talked about possibly running for President since his name first started being mentioned as a potential candidate back in 2008. Quite obviously, he was not a viable candidate back then thanks to the mess that his brother had left the country in. Indeed, I doubt that Jeb Bush would have been a viable candidate in 2008 even if the Bush 43 Presidency had ended on a modestly successful note simply because of the issue of name fatigue. Bush’s name came up again as people began to pay attention to the 2012 Presidential cycle, but he made it very clear very early on that he would not be running for President that year either, although Bush’s name did come up in some conversations in the media at those points in the primary when it looked like Mitt Romney might not be able to go all the way. When he bowed out of the 2012 race, many people thought that this would be the end of Jeb Bush as far as electoral politics were concerned. Perhaps we might see him named Secretary of Education in a Republican Administration, some suggested, but if he wasn’t running for President in 2012 then that probably meant he wouldn’t be running at all. Based on these comments and some of Bush’s other recent statements and actions, though, it seems fairly apparent that he’s closer to jumping into a race for the White House than he ever has been in the past.

In part, no doubt, this is because Bush likely realizes that 2016 is potentially his last shot at the Presidency. If a Republican wins in 2016, then he’d be locked out of running in 2020 in any case, and if a Democrat wins then he’d face the far more formidable task of trying to unseat an incumbent President, something that Mitt Romney would no doubt agree is not an easy task. Additionally, Bush’s prominence recently is likely related to the fact that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has fallen in the polls ever since the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal became public. While that story is now three months old and there is still absolutely no evidence that Christie himself was personally involved or knew about any political motivation behind the lane closings at issue in that matter, it’s still unclear what impact the whole story will have on what ever Presidential ambitions he may have.  Given this, the people who would be potential Christie backers if he ran are likely looking to Bush as a fall back candidate, and Bush himself is realizing that he made need to enter the race himself if he doesn’t want to see the GOP turned over completely to the Tea Party wing. If those conditions continue to apply as 2015 inches closer, then I believe a Jeb Bush campaign will become a whole lot less theoretical.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. al-Ameda says:

    You know, I was saying to a colleague this morning, “it’s been 6 years a since a Bush was president. Isn’t it time to renew the dynasty?”

  2. Ron Beasley says:

    In spite of his last name Jeb is probably the Republicans best bet.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    If the SCOTUS doesn’t appoint him…it ain’t gonna happen.

  4. Socraticsilence says:

    His viability is going to come down to his willingness to denounce his brother’s administration– to a much greater degree than any other possible Republican contender– in 2008 McCain could with a questionable degree of relevance point to his clashes with the administration in 2012 it didn’t really come up but in 2016 a Jeb candidacy would push it to the foreground.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Yes, yes he does sound more and more like a candidate. Problem is, he still sounds like a Bush.

  6. C. Clavin says:

    I think it would be much more fun to watch Christie pull his bully act on Hillary.

  7. wr says:

    @C. Clavin: “I think it would be much more fun to watch Christie pull his bully act on Hillary.”

    I’m thinking you remember how well that worked for Rick Lazio. I still cringe at the image of him storming over to her on the debate stage and forcing some paper in her face as he demanded she sign it. All the idiot pundits talked about how manly he was… I saw a man who’d just lost a race and had no idea it was over.

  8. rudderpedals says:

    He’ll have to do a hell of a selling job because he won’t carry Florida.

  9. Grewgills says:

    While that story is now three months old and there is still absolutely no evidence that Christie himself was personally involved or knew about any political motivation behind the lane closings at issue in that matter

    His own investigation did clear him of any wrong doing, nothing to see here.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    While that story is now three months old and there is still absolutely no evidence that Christie himself was personally involved or knew about any political motivation behind the lane closings at issue in that matter,

    Oh, I ain’t so sure about that. There may be no direct evidence that would stand up in a court of law, but as my dear departed grandmammy always said, that dog didn’t pick up all those ticks lying on the porch.

  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Grewgills: In this context one might also mention that a federal grand jury has been empaneled, although Doug didn’t.

  12. James in Silverdale, WA says:

    This is so out of touch. Jeb Bush will be unable to discuss the conservative governing achievements 2001 – Present. Of course, this is true of all the men (just men) posing for candidacy at the moment. But to have to pretend like the whole 8 years of your brother’s Presidency didn’t exist… the word appears to be “kryptonite.”

    Unless the GOP intends to disown GWB, drawing focus to him via Jeb will open a can of worms no one named “Bush” wants to see opened.

  13. beth says:

    I was reading that this weekend Jeb! said that people who come to this country illegally to work are not committing a felony but an act of love to help take care of their family and make a better life. I’m not sure he can get through a Republican primary with those views unless he’s planning on taking on the TeaParty wing head on. I remember how much it cost Perry when he said that denying undocumented residents in-state tuition was heartless.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @Grewgills: Yes, I thought that some cartoonist should have illustrated that by a man wagging his finger at his wife, saying “Based on my own investigation, there is no evidence whatsoever that I am having an affair!”

  15. michael reynolds says:

    I’ve said for many years that he wanted it, that he would eventually go for it if he saw an opening, and that he would be formidable.

    Democrats need to stop taking Jeb lightly. He can carry Florida, he can chip away at the Hispanic vote, he’s ethically clean, he’s competent, and we cannot be crying “dynasty!” if we propose to run a Clinton. So, wake up, Team Blue, this is serious.

  16. Ron Beasley says:

    @michael reynolds: I agree Michael, I think he is the only legitimate threat to Hillary.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    @Ron Beasley:
    One of the ironies here is that MSNBC has gone full-on prosecutorial against Christie, just exulting in their take-down of him, and in the process they helped clear a path for a more dangerous opponent. Like killing a troll who was blocking the path of the balrog, if I may go all LOTR.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: I don’t know if he is a threat or not. I certainly think he could be. But the issue with Jeb is not one of “Dynasty!”, but “Bush dynasty!” At this point in time, I think a fair # look back upon the Clinton years with a certain fondness (and thru rose colored glasses), where as W’s years are right there in the forefront of our memories and nobody wants to go there again. Except for maybe 27% of the electorate that is.

    If Jeb can find a way to denounce his brother’s administration in no uncertain terms, without alienating either his family or the GOP, he would definitely be a dangerous candidate. I’m just not sure he can square that circle.

  19. michael reynolds says:


    I think you overstate the damage of the Bush name. Americans are forgetful and forgiving and they tend not to love guilt by association. It would be fair to say that I despised George W. Bush, but I would give Jeb an independent listen.

  20. beth says:

    @michael reynolds: I lived in Florida when Jeb was governor and I always thought of him as the same kind of politician as his dad. I didn’t agree with a lot of GHW Bush’s policies but I thought he was a fairly honest, if slightly out of touch with the common man rich guy and doing what he thought was best for the country. I may have even voted for him once. I think most people have forgotten the bad parts of the first Bush presidency and see the old codger in his wheelchair and think “yeah, he was a nice guy”. I think Jeb! can play on that and I agree he’d be formidable against HIlary.

  21. Tillman says:

    Clinton vs. Bush? Round 2?!

    It’ll be a good season for Indecision 2016.

  22. inhumans99 says:

    Michael, your post made me chuckle…at least you know you are on a geek friendly blog (witness Doug’s Star Wars posts, and his turning to Captain Picard when a politician says something dumb).

    I think we are looking at our next president (even if Hillary ultimately runs, as expected). I accept that the GOP war on the poor is not going away anytime soon (witness Paul Ryan’s brutal budget roadmap that blows up the military budget and destroys aid to the poor), I can just hope that Jeb keeps the lid shut on the GOP box that is labeled Bomb Iran. He does not sound like someone eager to go to war with Iran, so hope springs eternal.

    Also, since he is from a state with a ton of folks who are oftentimes both very old and very poor, I can hope that this helps him blunt some of the more draconian cuts to all but the very wealthy and the military. Almost forgot to mention, he does not scream Deport Them All! whenever someone brings up illegal immigrants, so he also has that going for him.

  23. grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I don’t know. I don’t see him coming out of the primary without a lot of blood. He will have to pull hard right on immigration and if he manages that gauntlet he will be severely damaged for the general. At this point he does seem the strongest they’ve got, but that is faint praise.

  24. Ron Beasley says:

    @michael reynolds: Once again I agree. I think until Bridge gate Christie was the Republican’s best hope – now not so much!

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: I may very well be overstating it Michael, but I am well aware of how forgetful and forgiving Americans are. That is why I think Americans look back on the Clinton years fondly. As to giving Jeb a fair listening, I suspect most Americans would give him a jaundiced listening. Including you. I know I would.

  26. dazedandconfused says:

    “Jeb, would you have gone into Iraq like your brother did?”

    “Jeb, will there be an Office of Special Plans in your Pentagon?”

    “Jeb, will you condemn your brothers position on torture as outlined in “Decision Points”?”

    “Jeb, your brother has endorsed you for President, will you ask him to withdraw it?”

    “Jeb, is that awful screaming coming from your parents house Barbara?”

  27. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “It would be fair to say that I despised George W. Bush, but I would give Jeb an independent listen.”

    Then it’s not the country that’s at fault, it’s you.

    I doubt there are a lot of voters on either side who agree with this position.

  28. wr says:

    @beth: “I think most people have forgotten the bad parts of the first Bush presidency”

    Mention his name to a Republican and watch them twitch and spit like a vampire sprinkled with holy water. They start blithering about “read my lips; no new taxes.”

    Republicans don’t forgot the faults of their former leaders — except for Reagan.

  29. Barry says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “I am well aware of how forgetful and forgiving Americans are. That is why I think Americans look back on the Clinton years fondly. ”