Can­di­date Bush, ver­sion 2016

Ex-gover­nor vows to earn pres­i­dency, not in­herit it

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Z. Barabak

MI­AMI — Nei­ther was in the au­di­ence but Jeb Bush jok­ingly al­luded to both, draw­ing ap­pre­cia­tive laughs by not­ing he met his first pres­i­dent the day he was born and the sec­ond the day he came home from the hos­pi­tal.

Then Bush, for­mally an­nounc­ing his run for the White House, turned se­ri­ous, mak­ing his point humbly and un­mis­tak­ably clear: The pres­i­dency, he said, was some­thing to be earned, not in­her­ited.

“Not a one of us de­serves the job,” the for­mer Florida gover­nor told a home­town crowd Mon­day, “by right of re­sume, party, se­nior­ity, fam­ily or fam­ily nar­ra­tive.”

“It’s no­body’s turn,” Bush went on, in what served as well as a poke at the Demo­cratic front-run­ner, Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton. “It’s ev­ery­body’s test, and it’s wide open — ex­actly as a con­test for pres­i­dent should be.”

The ques­tion of dy­nas­tic suc­ces­sion for Bush, the son of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush and the younger brother of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, is one of the largest hur­dles fac­ing him in

his his­toric White House bid.

But be­yond that, Bush’s can­di­dacy rep­re­sents a gam­ble. More than most oth­ers in the field, Bush has been will­ing to chal­lenge party or­tho­doxy, chief ly in his call for a com­pre­hen­sive over­haul of the na­tion’s immigration laws — es­chew­ing the en­force­ment-driven ap­proach fa­vored by many in the Repub­li­can Party — and con­tin­ued sup­port for fed­eral ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards that are anath­ema to many con­ser­va­tives.

The bet is that Bush can be­gin to stake po­si­tions with ap­peal to a broader elec­torate in Novem­ber 2016, es­pe­cially the rapidly grow­ing share of Latino vot­ers, with­out de­stroy­ing his chances of first win­ning his party’s nom­i­na­tion.

Although his of­fi­cial launch was a mere for­mal­ity af­ter six months of un­fet­tered cam­paign­ing, it served as a fresh start of sorts for a can­di­dacy that has proved less than over­whelm­ing. The event, at­tended by his mother, for­mer First Lady Bar­bara Bush, and his wife, chil­dren and other fam­ily mem­bers, drew hours of tele­vi­sion cov­er­age and dozens of re­porters to swampy south Florida.

The at­mo­spher­ics, as much as Bush’s mes­sage — up­beat, ac­com­plished and dis­tinct from dys­func­tional Washington — were very much in­tended to sig­nal that, even at age 62, he is poised to be a dif­fer­ent sort of Repub­li­can.

From the Latin mu­sic puls­ing out­side to the min­gling of Span­ish and other lan­guages in­side a com­mu­nity col­lege gym­na­sium, Bush’s rally was no typ­i­cal gath­er­ing of the ag­ing, white, ru­ral GOP.

The cho­sen venue, Mi­ami Dade Col­lege, was it­self a sig­nal, tele­graph­ing Bush’s hope to reach be­yond what has been his party’s shrink­ing po­lit­i­cal base. A branch of the state public univer­sity sys­tem, the palm­dot­ted sub­ur­ban Mi­ami cam­pus has one of the largest en­roll­ments of Latino stu­dents in the coun­try.

In­side the heav­ily air­con­di­tioned gym, Bush de­liv­ered the mes­sage he hopes will serve him through the long, grind­ing cam­paign, mix­ing can-do con­fi­dence and a highly lauda­tory recita­tion of his record as gover­nor with sub­tle jabs at the sev­eral sen­a­tors com­pet­ing with him for the GOP nom­i­na­tion.

Aim­ing at Pres­i­dent Obama and swat­ting his con­gres­sional ri­vals in turn, Bush sug­gested the record of the in­cum­bent ad­min­is­tra­tion showed that “ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence is another term for prepa­ra­tion, and there is no sub­sti­tute for that.”

Yet for all the new­ness he sought to pro­ject and de­spite the large con­tin­gent of young peo­ple in the au­di­ence, much of Bush’s mes­sage was old-time Repub­li­can gospel, in­clud­ing calls for lower taxes, less reg­u­la­tion and more lim­ited gov­ern­ment. His prom­ise to ban­ish the spe­cial in­ter­ests and “shake up the cul­ture of Washington” is stan­dard for can­di­dates of both par­ties.

In one of Mon­day’s few spe­cific pledges, Bush staked an am­bi­tious goal of 4% an­nual growth for each year he is pres­i­dent, cre­at­ing a cu­mu­la­tive 19 mil­lion jobs, though he did not say whether that im­pres­sive num­ber would be cre­ated in a sin­gle term or re­quire two.

Bush, who started in Florida pol­i­tics in the early 1980s help­ing build the state Repub­li­can Party, had been men­tioned as a pres­i­den­tial prospect for years. Still, he sur­prised many in De­cem­ber when he fi­nally ex­pressed in­ter­est in run­ning.

Per­haps more sur­pris­ing, though, has been his per­for­mance since.

Far from the com­mand­ing front-run­ner some an­tic­i­pated — or his brother proved when he ran in 2000 — Bush has failed to break free of a large and grow­ing field of GOP ri­vals, by far the big­gest in re­cent mem­ory. More than a dozen hope­fuls have de­clared their can­di­dacy or are weigh­ing a White House bid.

Bush’s emer­gence did help dis­suade Mitt Rom­ney, the 2012 Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, from mak­ing a third try for pres­i­dent. Oth­er­wise Bush and his for­mi­da­ble money-rais­ing ma­chine have proved con­sid­er­ably less than in­tim­i­dat­ing.

Ohio Gov. John Ka­sich, who will prob­a­bly vie with Bush for the sup­port of es­tab­lish­ment and less ide­o­log­i­cally con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans, has in­di­cated he plans to en­ter the race by the end of sum­mer. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another com­peti­tor for anti-Washington, es­tab­lish­ment GOP sup­port, is ex­pected to of­fi­cially an­nounce his can­di­dacy in com­ing weeks.

Even Marco Ru­bio, Florida’s ju­nior sen­a­tor, de­clined to stand aside for Bush, who helped men­tor Ru­bio early in his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. (The two ex­changed friendly Twit­ter mes­sages Mon­day be­fore Bush’s rally.)

Time has not done him any fa­vors.

The Repub­li­can Party has moved con­sid­er­ably to the right since Bush last ran for of­fice more than a dozen years ago. And his po­lit­i­cal rusti­ness has shown, most no­tably when he bob­bled an easily fore­seen ques­tion about whether he backed the un­pop­u­lar war his brother launched in Iraq. Bush fi­nally said, given what is known to­day, he would not have sup­ported the in­va­sion.

In a sign of con­cern, Bush last week re­placed his cam­paign man­ager, shift­ing him from day-to-day oper­a­tions to a po­si­tion fo­cused on win­ning the ear­li­est-vot­ing states.

Change, es­pe­cially in pol­i­tics, is never easy.

At one point Mon­day, Bush was in­ter­rupted by de­mon­stra­tors who stood up and re­vealed T-shirts spell­ing out “Le­gal sta­tus is not enough” — a re­flec­tion of un­hap­pi­ness with Bush be­cause he backed away from ad­vo­cat­ing a path to cit­i­zen­ship for the mil­lions of im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally.

Turn­ing to ad­dress his crit­ics, Bush vowed to “pass mean­ing­ful immigration re­form,” though he of­fered no specifics.

To win the pres­i­dency, Bush sug­gested he would seek to bring the Repub­li­can Party to his way of think­ing, not the other way around. If he suc­ceeds, that in it­self would be a his­toric achieve­ment.

David Gold­man

JEB BUSH, cen­ter, takes the stage at a col­lege in Mi­ami to an­nounce his run for pres­i­dent. “It’s no­body’s turn,” he said, dis­miss­ing talk of dy­nas­tic suc­ces­sion.

David Gold­man As­so­ci­ated Press

IN ONE of the few spe­cific pledges in his an­nounce­ment, Bush set a goal of 4% an­nual growth for each year he is pres­i­dent, cre­at­ing a to­tal of 19 mil­lion jobs, though he did not say whether it’s over one or two terms.

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