UPDATE: On Tuesday, Bush announced that he is “actively exploring” a presidential campaign.
Washington (AFP) – Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of the 43rd president of the United States and son of the 41st, appears to be preparing a bid to become the 45th.
George H.W. Bush’s 61-year-old second son promised Sunday that he would make up his mind on whether to run “in short order.”
But would his presidential heritage be a bonus or a burden?
As speculation grips Washington at what is the de facto start of the November 2016 presidential election, many commentators have spoken of Bush as a heavyweight Republican contender.
But, aside from possible Bush fatigue, he shares with defeated 2012 Republican flag-bearer Mitt Romney a career in off-shore private equity which may not sit well with voters.
And, when it comes to wooing the conservative Republican base in his own party’s primaries, he could suffer from his seven-year absence from the political scene and largely centrist positions.
In particular, his moderate position in the explosive U.S. immigration debate, may hurt his chances of selection.
“I have no clue if I’d be a good candidate. I hope I would be,” Bush told ABC television affiliate WPLG-TV.
“I think I could serve well as president, to be honest with you. But I don’t know that either. I think you learn these things as you go along.”
But he also took a swipe at President Barack Obama, a Democrat, saying he was stuck in his “own little bubble.”
And, in what may be the strongest indication yet he may throw his hat in the race, Bush said he will make public the 250,000 emails he sent during his time as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007.
Bush said he was releasing the records in the interest of “transparency” and in order to “let people make up their mind.”
But has George W. Bush’s wealthy younger brother, who launched offshore private equity funds after his two terms as governor, got a Romney problem?
The last multimillionaire Republican nominee’s business interests contributed to the ultimate failure of his bid by reinforcing his image as an aloof plutocrat isolated from ordinary American life.
Bush has defended his own business dealings, and denies they could hurt any candidacy.
“I am not ashamed of that at all,” he said. “Practical experience is something that might be useful in Washington.”
And Bush stressed that he would end his role in the businesses should he join the race, adding that his associates would do “fine” without him.
Bush’s measured approach on immigration has only become more problematic since Obama opened a path to legalization for five million undocumented migrants currently living in the shadows.
Those helped by Obama’s measure account for less than half of the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally and facing deportation.
And, pressed on the issue in April, Bush seemed sympathetic toward those who cross the border illegally to join their relatives or to support their families back in their home country.
This position put him at odds with some of his Republican colleagues, and many of the most politically active party members.
“Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family,” he said.
Some moderate Republicans hope that Bush, if he survives the primary race, can help them tap into the critical bloc of Hispanic voters, who voted overwhelmingly for Obama in 2012.
Jeb’s wife, Columba Bush, is from Mexico, and he speaks Spanish.
Meanwhile, for better of for worse, Bush carries with him the legacy of his father and brother.
During this week’s storm over the release of a Senate report on the torture of terror suspects under George W. Bush, Jeb Bush opted for silence.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who lost the 2012 Republican nomination to Romney, predicted that the younger Bush will still try his luck, albeit in a crowded field of 10 to 12 candidates.
“We have no frontrunner. This if going to be a wide open race, probably the most open on our side since 1940,” he said.
AFP Photo/Saul Loeb