The former Florida governor with the famous family name is among
the leaders in polls charting potential Republican contenders in
2016 and says he will decide late this year or early next year.
But unlike some would-be competitors like New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie, who are making forward-leaning statements, Bush is
publicly expressing his uncertainty.
Questions are weighing heavily on Bush, 61, about the impact on his
wife and family and whether he can offer an agenda that would unite
Whether he will run is a question that comes up almost daily for
Bush as he travels the country campaigning for Republican candidates
ahead of Nov. 4 congressional elections. On Thursday, he was in
Greenville, South Carolina, campaigning with Governor Nikki Haley,
who is seeking re-election.
"It's a big decision," he told reporters in Greenville. "It relates
"I think the next presidential race has to be about the future and
it has to be about fixing some big problems," he said.
"I think it's more than likely that he's giving this a serious
thought and moving forward," Bush's son, George P. Bush, said on
ABC's "This Week" program on Sunday. "The family will be behind him
100 percent if he decides to do it."
Bush's decision-making seems far less advanced than the past Bush
presidents were at similar points in their own career, leading some
Republicans to raise questions. His father, former President George
H.W. Bush, began preparing for a 1988 run in 1985. His brother,
former President George W. Bush, was actively planning his 2000 run
at this point in 1998.
"There's a scent of activity that goes on in preparation for a
serious candidacy that involves a lot of contacts with donors and
strategists," said Florida Republican strategist Rick Wilson.
"People aren't seeing that from Jeb. I will say he's been more
active, been talking to folks, but not to a degree that Chris
Christie has been doing."
Friends say Jeb Bush's cautiousness is due to his deliberate manner
and his experience watching his father and brother go through what
can be a meat-grinding process. They also say he is not expecting to
be drafted, recruited or convinced to run. That is not his style.
"This is not a guy who spends sleepless nights staring at the
ceiling wondering if he should or should not run for president,"
said Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and a friend of Bush.
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"He's a disciplined guy and will make this decision like he does
most other big decisions, through a serious deliberative process
weighing the pros and cons and looking deep into himself. This is a
decision that will be made by Jeb, his wife and kids," she said.
If he runs, Bush would be injecting himself into the presidential
race in a Republican Party that has moved to the right since he left
the governor's office in 2006.
Bush, whose wife of 40 years, Columba, was born in Mexico, has a
more welcoming view on immigration than many party conservatives,
who criticize his support for comprehensive reform that would allow
a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.
If Bush were to win the Republican primary and become the party's
presidential nominee, he would have to convince a majority of
Americans that it would be worthwhile to have a third president
named Bush in the Oval Office.
Should he run, donors say Bush could get up to speed quickly by
tapping a ready network of financial supporters built from his own
alliances and from those who supported previous Bush presidential
His father and brother have publicly urged him to run. People who
know them say they are unsure of Jeb Bush's plans.
"Jeb is keeping very close counsel on what his future plans are,"
said Jim McGrath, spokesman for the elder Bush. "I don't think he's
ready to make a decision. I think he's being very sincere when he
says he will wait until after the election to decide."
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Howard
Schneider; Editing by John Whitesides, Frances Kerry, Sandra Maler
and Eric Walsh)
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