Jeb Bush and his emissaries are sending increasingly strong signals that the former Florida governor is gearing up for a 2016 presidential campaign, with associates saying he could announce his intentions within a month.
Bush recently e-mailed major Republican donors asking them to, as several of them put it, “keep your powder dry.” His allies are urging would-be bundlers not to commit to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or other potential rivals. Bush’s top strategist, Mike Murphy, has also been telling potential campaign staffers not to sign up to work for another candidate and to expect Bush’s announcement soon.
Out of public office for eight years, Bush has a thicket of business interests — including massive overseas investment funds — that he is working to untangle himself from before a campaign begins. As one confidant said, “He says he knows he has to wrap it up.”
If Bush launches a presidential exploratory committee or otherwise declares his intentions in coming weeks, he would immediately increase the pressure on potential rivals in both parties to make their own decisions quickly. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumed Democratic front-runner, has signaled that she could wait until spring to launch a campaign, while many Republicans have been waiting for Bush to make a move.
For Bush, allies said, waiting until spring to decide on a campaign would carry serious risks. The competition is already underway among a dozen or so ambitious Republican hopefuls to woo donors and sign talented staff.
Some senior Republicans in communication with Bush said they have concluded he is almost certain to run. His family — once averse to a campaign — is now on board with a run. Bush also has slimmed down: He is working with a new personal trainer after a knee surgery, according to the Miami Herald, and lost 15 pounds in recent weeks.
Asked whether he saw any reason Bush would not run, one confidant who has been in touch with the former governor said, “I don’t know of anything.” This person, who like some others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the conversations, said Bush sees value in taking his time before deciding.
“It’s easier to be a prospective candidate than a candidate,” this person said.
A second Bush confidant said: “He’s not playing games. He’s being very sincere and honest with folks and going through the things that really matter to him. Within a month, we’ll know.”
Bush has said previously that he would decide by the end of this year or early in 2015. Aides said that timeline has not changed.
“Governor Bush has not made a decision about whether or not he will run in 2016,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said. “We are not going to weigh in on the decision-making process beyond what he has said to date.”
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SOURCE: The Washington Post – Philip Rucker and Matea Gold