MIAMI (AP) — Jeb Bush is launching a Republican presidential bid months in the making Monday with a vow to get Washington “out of the business of causing problems” and to stay true to his beliefs — easier said than done in a bristling primary contest where his conservative credentials will be sharply challenged.
“I will campaign as I would serve, going everywhere, speaking to everyone, keeping my word, facing the issues without flinching,” Bush said in excerpts of a speech released by his campaign before his afternoon announcement. Bush was opening his campaign at a rally near his south Florida home at Miami Dade College, where the institution’s large and diverse student body symbolizes the nation he seeks to lead.
In an unusual twist for a political speech aimed at a national audience, Bush, who is bilingual, planned to speak partly in Spanish. The former Florida governor has made minority outreach a priority.
“In any language,” his speech said, “my message will be an optimistic one because I am certain that we can make the decades just ahead in America the greatest time ever to be alive in this world.”
In a video for the event, showing women, minorities and a disabled child, Bush says “the most vulnerable in our society should be in the front of the line and not the back.” This calls for “new leadership that takes conservative principles and applies them so that people can rise up.”
Neither his father, former President George H.W. Bush, nor his brother, former President George W. Bush, was expected to attend. The family was to be represented instead by Jeb Bush’s mother and former first lady, Barbara Bush, who once said that the country didn’t need yet another Bush as president, and by his son George P. Bush, recently elected Texas land commissioner.
Before the event, the Bush campaign came out with a new logo — Jeb! — that conspicuously leaves out the Bush surname.
Bush joins the race in progress in some ways in a commanding position. Bush has probably raised a record amount of money to support his candidacy and conceived of a new approach on how to structure his campaign, both aimed at allowing him to make a deep run into the GOP primaries.
But on other measures, early public opinion polls among them, he has yet to break out. While unquestionably one of the top-tier candidates in the GOP race, he is also only one of several in a large and capable Republican field that does not have a true front-runner.
In the past six months, Bush has made clear he will remain committed to his core beliefs in the campaign to come — even if his positions on immigration and education standards are deeply unpopular among the conservative base of the party that plays an outsized role in the GOP primaries.
Tea party leader Mark Meckler on Monday said Bush’s positions on education and immigration are “a nonstarter with many conservatives.”
“There are two political dynasties eyeing 2016,” said Meckler, a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the movement’s largest organizations, and now leader of Citizens for Self-Governance. “And before conservatives try to beat Hillary, they first need to beat Bush.”
Yet a defiant Bush has showed little willingness to placate his party’s right wing.
“I’m not going to change who I am,” Bush said as he wrapped up a European trip on the weekend. “I respect people who may not agree with me, but I’m not going to change my views because today someone has a view that’s different.”
Bush is one of 11 major Republicans in the hunt for the nomination. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are among those still deciding whether to join a field that could end up just shy of 20.
After touring four early-voting states, Bush quickly launches a private fundraising tour with stops in at least 11 cities before the end of the month. Two events alone — a reception at Union Station in Washington on Friday and a breakfast the following week on Seventh Avenue in New York — will account for almost $2 million in new campaign cash, according to invitations that list more than 75 already committed donors.
Peoples reported from Washington.
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