© 2023 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Jeb Bush For President? Maybe.

After weeks of mounting speculation about any plan to run for the White House in 2016, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush Tuesday gave everyone a “definite maybe.”

“If I decide to run for office again, it will be based on what I believe, and it will be based on my record,” Bush told the Christian Broadcasting Network in July, 2013.

“That record was one of solving problems completely from a conservative perspective,” Bush said. “I acted on my core beliefs on social issues as governor. I will be able to, I think, manage my way through all the ‘chirpers’ out there.”

The 61-year-old Bush – who served two terms as Florida’s governor from 1999-2007 – took to social media one day after delivering the commencement address at the University of South Carolina — a state that plays a major role in Republican primaries.

He plans to establish a leadership PAC in January to help him hold conversation with people around the country. 

“It’s kind of like halfway there,” said Charles Zelden, a political scientist at Nova Southeastern University. “But what he’s really trying to do is decide if he win if he runs.”

Zelden says at this point, Bush is reaching out to the people who have become the most important ones in an election – those with lots of money to spend on political campaigns.

“He’s reaching out to see if they’re going to back him; if they back him, he will definitely run,” Zelden said. “If they don’t back him, he’ll come out and admit that ‘Well, I looked at it closely and it doesn’t look possible.’ What he’s really trying to do is get a jump on other establishment candidates.”

If he goes all-in, Bush would join what’s already a logjam of possible Republican presidential hopefuls – about two dozen at last count. Zelden says the wide open GOP field, in part, is because there’s no obvious leader or heir apparent.

Bush’s decision has also placed him at the front of other potential Republican contenders, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U-S Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Florida’s Marco Rubio. But the former governor also would have to deal with fierce opposition from Democrats and some Republicans, on issues such as immigration reform and education.

Nova Southeastern’s Charles Zelden says for now, Bush sounds like somebody who will not follow the paths of other Republicans in moving to the right in order to placate the GOP’s Tea Party faction.

“And let’s remember: he’s a very conservative politician; a lot of his policies are extremely conservative, he was a conservative governor,” said Zelden. “He just doesn’t quite have the wild-eyed radical conservatism that the Tea Party seems to be demanding now.”

Through his Facebook page, Jeb Bush did not indicate when he plans to make the final decision on the 2016 race. Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee is downplaying his announcement, and the Republican Party of Florida is staying neutral -- in case Marco Rubio decides to make a presidential bid.