As the son and brother of former presidents, Jeb Bush has moved – with mixed success – to establish and define himself as a fresh candidate with his own new ideas.
“I’m my own man,” Bush, the former governor of Florida, said in February. “My views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.”
Fair enough: Bush blazed his own path as governor of Florida and in his advocacy work – mostly on education issues – after he left office. But when he declared his candidacy for president in Miami on Monday, there remained shades of W. and H.W. in his remarks.
In their presidential announcement speeches – George H.W. Bush’s in 1987, George W. Bush in 1999 and Jeb Bush this week – all three emphasized optimism for the future (a common theme in almost any political speech, to be sure.)
Each began their campaigns pitching themselves as pragmatic moderates. Between Jeb and George W. Bush, both men promised to make education a key part of their agenda. And not unlike George W. Bush’s call for what he called “compassionate conservatism,” Jeb Bush emphasized support for a Republican administration that focuses more than just tax cutting and debt reduction.
“In government, if we get a few things right, we can make lives better for millions of people,” Jeb Bush said.
The pitch worked for the first two, but Jeb Bush will face significant headwinds in his quest for the White House. Unlike his father, who was the sitting vice president at the time of his campaign and his brother, who was governor of Texas, Jeb Bush hasn’t been in office since 2007.
The primary race this cycle is also loaded with formidable Republican contenders, and despite being near the top in most polls, Jeb Bush has been unable to clear the field early or break from the pack.