Jeb Bush
Bush 45? Jeb 'actively' explores 2016 run
02:23 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

Jeb Bush surprised the political world on Tuesday by deciding to “actively explore” a 2016 bid. Here are six things to know about Bush:

1. He was the governor of Florida, an important swing state in presidential races

After a failed bid for the Florida governorship in 1994, Bush won with more than 55% of the vote four years later and went on to serve two terms.

He presided over the state during the Florida’s presidential recount in 2000, which ushered George W. Bush into the White House.

Florida is vital to winning the presidency. The only presidential candidate in the past 50 years to win the state but lose the national race is Jeb Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, in 1992.

READ: Bush to release emails

2. He is a member of one of the most well-connected political families in the United States

Bush is the son of George H.W. Bush, who served a single term as president from 1989-1993, vice president under Ronald Reagan and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Jeb Bush is also the younger brother of George W. Bush, who was in office from 2001-2009. His son, George P. Bush, just launched his political career in Texas, where he will begin a term directing the General Land Office next year.

READ: Jeb to grads: ‘Shake things up’

3. Despite the benefits, family poses challenges

The nationwide support network from Jeb Bush’s family could also work as an anchor to his ambitions. Memories of George W. Bush’s presidency, which was beset by two wars, a financial meltdown, are still fresh.

Closer to home, Bush’s immediate family was beset by personal issues during his time as governor. In 2002, his daughter, Noelle, was arrested for trying to buy Xanax with a fraudulent prescription and caught with crack cocaine. She completed a drug rehabilitation program in 2003.

Bush’s wife, Columba, has reportedly been reluctant to seeing him run for national office to avoid dredging those old personal issues back out into the open.

4. He converted to Catholicism

Bush was raised in the Episcopal church before converting to Catholicism in 1996, joining the denomination of his wife.

In 2009, Bush cited the “sacraments of the Catholic Church, the timeless nature of the message of the Catholic Church, and the fact that the Catholic Church believes in and acts on absolute truth as its foundational principles and doesn’t move with modern times as my former religion did,” as the reason for his conversion.

5. He speaks Spanish and strongly supports overhauling the nation’s immigration laws

Bush has had close ties to the Latino community throughout his life. He has a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas, spent part of his early career living in Venezuela and he speaks Spanish fluently. His wife was born in Mexico.

He has set himself apart from many Republicans eyeing the presidency as a strong supporter of laws that would provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the United States illegally. In 2013, he published a book outlining a plan for immigration called Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution.

In April 2014, he defended the reason why undocumented immigrants come to the United States, which drew the ire of conservatives.

“Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony,” Bush said in a Fox News interview. “It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family.”

6. He’s a big backer of Common Core

Bush is one of the most vocal supporters of the Common Core, which aims to set education standards nationwide. The program has drawn criticism from conservatives within the Republican Party who have tried to paint it as a “federal takeover of education.” Common Core supporters point out, however, that the federal government did not draw up the standards and that it’s a state-led effort.

Still, combined with his views on immigration, Bush’s more conservative opponents will drive the issue during the primary to paint him as a too moderate to lead the GOP.

7. He was a close mentor to Marco Rubio, another possible presidential contender

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has hailed Bush as a key mentor during his political career. The two served together in Florida state politics while Rubio rose through the ranks of the state legislature.

When Rubio became Speaker of the Florida State House in 2005, Bush gave him a golden sword on the floor of the legislature that he named “Chang” and said belonged to a mythical “great conservative warrior”

Heading into 2016, Rubio and Bush could square off against one another in a primary contest that would make Florida ground zero for an epic Sunshine State GOP showdown. Rubio has said that despite their close relationship, Bush’s decision won’t affect whether he runs.