As the first potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate to make a move toward actually running, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush enjoys a lot of advantages. He’s forcing his likely competition for the nomination in the moderate wing of the party, like 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, to think harder about whether a 2016 run is viable. Bush’s announcement is also making well-heeled political donors closer to putting their pens to their checkbooks. But there’s one huge downside to being the Republican closest to being a candidate -- there is now a big bull’s-eye on his back.
Soon after Bush announced that he would “actively explore the possibility” of running for president, a Democratic super PAC posted a YouTube video titled “Welcome to the GOP Primary, Jeb!” that included Republican criticism of the former Florida governor. The PAC, American Bridge 21st Century, also referenced Bush’s work with Barclays and Lehman Brothers to argue that Bush will have similar problems relating to his wealth that Romney had in 2012.
“Jeb's Romneyesque private equity issues make him an appetizing potential opponent for Democrats,” read the description of the video.
Conversely, such attacks could be used to propel Bush's candidacy. By being the closest 2016 GOP candidate, Bush is getting some of the potential criticism surrounding his candidacy out of the way.
"I kind of think [the Bush camp] felt like they needed to get this out there because of some of the news over the last 10 days," a Republican strategist told the Washington Post, referring to a Businessweek story about Bush’s ties as an adviser to Barclays and Lehman Brothers.
Bush’s statement on Tuesday puts potential donors on notice that a formal announcement may be coming soon. It also has the dual effect of making big donors pause about backing other moderate candidates. The statement “keeps people excited that Jeb is going to run and that people won’t start supporting other candidates until he comes out,” Bush supporter Ashley Davis told Politico.
It also may derail a potential Romney candidacy. While Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, dismissed speculation of a 2016 run over the summer, rumors of a run gained steam, and Mitt Romney has been the top choice of Republican voters in recent polls. "Mitt has said casually that if Jeb gets involved, that he perhaps would not get into the race," Romney supporter Mel Sembler told Reuters.