Jeb Bush looked relieved to say it. “I’ve decided I’m a candidate for president of the United States of America,” said the former Florida governor Monday afternoon. Standing on a stage at Miami Dade College, Bush let out an audible sigh immediately after the announcement as the crowd around him cheered.
Wearing a blue dress shirt with no jacket or tie, Bush said he will “run with heart and run to win.” Besides a few early stumbles over the prepared text and an interruption from immigration activists, the speech showcased a confident Bush who touted his experiences as a two-term governor of one of the largest states in the country.
“A self-serving attitude can take hold in any capital, just as it once did in Tallahassee,” Bush said. “I was a governor who refused to accept that as the normal or right way of conducting the people’s business. I will not accept it as the standard in Washington.” Bush even sounded like a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, saying the next president should be “willing to challenge and disrupt the whole culture in our nation’s capital.”
Bush’s entrance into the Republican primary comes after roughly six months of actively exploring a run for president. During that exploratory phase the former governor, who left office in 2007, seemed to struggle through speeches. But on Monday, buoyed by frequent chants of “We want Jeb!” from the crowd, Bush seemed more at ease as his address went on. He smiled broadly during the many applause breaks, periodically taking swigs from a plastic water bottle.
The Republican took veiled shots at some of his primary opponents, such as the several GOP senators running for president. “There’s no passing off responsibility when you’re a governor,” Bush said. “No blending into the legislative crowd or filing an amendment and calling that success. As our whole nation has learned since 2008, executive experience is another term for preparation, and there is no substitute for that."
The more explicit attacks were reserved for his potential general-election opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and the top members of the Obama administration. ““With their phone-it-in foreign policy, the Obama-Clinton-Kerry team is leaving a legacy of crises uncontained, violence unopposed, enemies unnamed, friends undefended, and alliances unraveling,” Bush said. And the only time he called out Clinton specifically was when discussing the need to protect religious liberty.
“Secretary Clinton insists that when the progressive agenda encounters religious beliefs to the contrary those beliefs, quote, ‘have to be changed.’ That’s what she said,” he said as the crowd booed. “That’s what she said, and I guess we should at least thank her for the warning.”
A fluent Spanish speaker, Bush ended his address with an appeal to Hispanic voters in that language. Roughly translated, it was asking Spanish speakers to "get involved" in his campaign.
While Bush’s wife Columba, his son George P., and his mother Barbara were in attendance, neither former president in the Bush family, George H.W. and George W., were seen in Miami. Jeb made a light but poignant reference to his father and his brother when he described himself as a “guy who met his first president on the day he was born, and his second on the day he was brought home from the hospital.”
His other reference to the Bush pedigree emphasized that he takes “nothing for granted” in his presidential bid.
“Not a one of us deserves the job by right of resume, party, seniority, family, or family narrative,” he said. “It’s nobody’s turn. It’s everybody’s test, and it’s wide open, exactly as a contest for president should be.”